Most forward-thinking employers would consider creativity as a crucial skill for their workforce so that the business is driven towards delivering imaginative solutions to problems within the company and importantly – for their clients.
However, there is often nervousness of around volunteering ideas (this can be for several reasons), and the lack of creative thinking affects the potential success of the business, both from a cultural perspective and client success.
The problem often stems from the lack of employee engagement (this can be due to the lack of communication that flows towards the workforce particularly around matters that directly affect them), training (do you have a training schedule for your team, do you encourage continual learning?), and sometimes it can simply be poor communication skills that employees exhibit (if this is the case – it can definitely be fixed – it just takes time and encouragement).
There are a few key areas to focus on to build your independent team:
1- Employee Engagement
Having an engaged workforce yields numerous benefits for an organisation. Such as:
- Higher staff retention
Employee engagement in a company results in higher retention and lower employee turnover. An engaged workforce generally also has higher productivity. When someone is interested and connected to what they do, they are more likely to do it even better and crucially enjoy it.
- High Job Satisfaction and Less absenteeism
Highly engaged employees are less likely to be absent from their workplace. Engaged employees feel their organisation cares for them, and in return – they are likely to return that feeling of ‘care’ – both towards the business and towards their colleagues. Engaged employees are significantly happier to report to work each day or find someone to help or delegate to when they are away. On the other hand, disengaged employees do not feel a sense of responsibility towards their organisations because there is no connection between them. As a result, they will find it less of a problem to be absent from work and have a low output. Worse still they can begin to be very disruptive. A Gallup study in the United States revealed that there was a 41% reduction in absenteeism within organisations that invested in creating a highly engaged workforce.
- Company Loyalty
Creating this ‘positive connection’ between staff and the organisation motivates them to deliver their best work, this in turn causes an increase in the level of loyalty employees express towards their organisation, and as such your team will become ‘ambassadors’ of the company. This tends to have a knock-on effect with hiring whereby your team will actively work to source recruits. They will also help influence clients to purchase and use products or services offered by your company.
2- Talk to your teams.
It goes without saying that without proper transparency within the company – i.e. not telling your staff what the business is doing or your specific plans (if you are operating a smaller company), then the only thing left for them is ‘assumption’ and we all know where that leads. This is easy to fix – spend time with your staff by way of having regular company updates so they understand and appreciate the goals and targets for the company. Make these sessions interactive so they can have their voice heard Remember these sessions are valuable for you as well – its an opportunity to take regular litmus tests from your team and make rapid changes before issues become more significant. It doesn’t matter what format you choose but communicate regularly.
3- Employee Feedback
Feedback to your staff is another critical component of employee engagement, which involves confidential periodic conversations about behaviour, attitude, and performance that are structured to improve or grow them at a personal level. You can then use these insights from the employees’ feedback to help make appropriate adjustments (within reason!). The focus of constructive feedback is based on how you can work together to improve within the areas discussed. It is important not to become emotive during these sessions and to listen. Too many leaders talk over or are dismissive of an employees concern. The best constructive feedback seeks to leverage the strengths of an individual and then set a path to further development.
4- Let go of the reins
This applies to small and large businesses. For a smaller company, it can be difficult for a founder to ‘let go’ as there is a driving desire to stay in touch with all parts of the company. This can create the dreaded ‘Micro Managing’ scenario, which consumes vast amounts of energy and time. To create your team of Independent Thinkers – you have to let them fail and accept that its OK. Most human beings learn by Trial and Error – we learn from our mistakes. Gentle coaching and ‘signposting’ (i.e. give them the direction but not the answers) – should be enough.
5- Celebrate Independent Thinking
Given it can be a challenging process to create a team of Independent Thinkers – it is worth taking time to reward initiatives that lead to a new solution. The type and size of the reward are up to you – however, simple recognition goes a long way. This will encourage others to engage more and be autonomous.
Of course – there will always be some people in your team that will struggle to be independent – however, with proper help and guidance, they should be able to adapt. If they don’t or can’t? They are in the wrong role – and you have a hiring issue that needs fixing quickly.