Opinion: How business can embrace a revitalized workforce
Spend 10 minutes on your favorite social media platform, and you’ll see people around the world experiencing a greater desire to creatively express themselves during the quarantine. They're baking bread from scratch for the first time, writing their first books, taking guitar lessons and learning to sew. Amazon sold out of podcast microphones and sidewalk chalk! It's an explosion of creativity.
Are we just finding ways to kill time? Perhaps. But we can't afford to shelve our newfound creativity when back in the office. There are major implications for businesses whose employees will return as the most creatively revitalized workforce in generations. We can harness this creativity and grow a creative economy with increased productivity and better profits built around an inspired workforce. Or we will create frustrated employees that resent having to return to the old ways of working in outdated workplace models not centered on creativity.
Given a choice, we'd all pick the first outcome, not only because it's more fun, but because a more creative workforce provides better value and outcomes for businesses.
In their book, “Made to Stick”—about what makes ideas interesting—authors Chip and Dan Heath share examples of creativity benefiting business outcomes. In one experiment, two tactics were used to raise money for hungry children in Africa. One used statistics to illustrate the problem; the other framed the issue through the experience of a 7-year old girl named Rokia. The personal story raised more than double the amount per donor compared to the data-based approach.
Similarly, when South Korean government officials struggled to convince citizens to donate blood, they hired a choir to sing in public places. A heartbeat played in the background of all of the music, growing louder and louder, then slower and quieter, eventually flatlining. The singers held up signs and posters about how many people die simply because hospitals don’t have adequate blood supplies. Blood donations rose more than 60 percent for the next two years following the campaign's nationwide tour.
Of course, creative problem-solving is not new. What is new is the number of people across the globe who are exercising and improving their creative muscles. Business leaders across every industry—not just creativity—must take steps to ensure that this extra creativity is manifested in the workplace. The same thing applies to people who work in finance that took up painting and lawyers who started food blogs while sheltering in place.
To avoid going back to the same old, same old, we have to feed those creative flames. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some actions to take:
Celebrate the creative endeavors of employees
Host a monthly art walk where employees can see the work of their colleagues or have “Creative Fridays” where employees can discuss their creative hobbies.
Bring in sources of creative inspiration
Your team has been constantly inspired online while stuck at home. Foster that inspiration by inviting artists, writers, musicians and other creative professionals to consult with your teams and help them look at problems differently.
Build internal creativity communication platforms
Create a dedicated Slack channel where employees can share their creative work and inspirations.
Build teams based around diverse creative passions
Assign and support diverse working groups to encourage unique collaborations.
Take notice of your employees’ personal lives
The upside of Zoom calls is that they are humanizing us and tearing down the wall between professional and personal lives. Look for clues on your calls. Find out if those trophies mean their owner is a chess champion, or if the quilt over a chair was created by its occupant.
As we move ahead, don't forget about the creative explosion we are experiencing. Business executives and decision-makers must understand their team members have original thinking and creativity to offer outside their job descriptions. What do they do outside of the office that can enhance their job? Find out and you will be one step closer to having inspired, productive employees eager to harness their creative impulses on behalf of business goals.