by Elaine Cercado
One of the managerial challenges at the workplace especially during these economic difficulties is that employees are sucked into their day-to-day job routines, sometimes doing two or three roles, that creativity and innovation are not nurtured anymore. When this happens for a prolonged time, the workplace becomes unexciting, and employees become unmotivated and experience work stress and boredom.
Few approaches or solutions I have found effective in the many years I faced this kind of challenge:
Leverage passion. During employee 1-1 discussion, ask your employee about his/her passion, hobby or interest, put that in record for easy recall and leverage that for special or ad hoc projects. When we were relocating our office, I had an assistant who was very much into real estate and liked being part of the new office hunting. She was then assigned to be part of a small team who studied relocation options. It provided exciting and learning experiences for her. She took pride in being part of the team that led and decided our company’s new office. From my perspective, company benefited from her energetic and inspired work, which excited other team members as well. She also gave diverse and practical inputs, which helped the company realize creative results.
Create “recharging” moments. The aim is to break the monotony of work and inspire some creative thinking or energy. I worked in a company where my boss used to bring us to team building exercises without an advanced notice. While I’m sure then my boss knew our schedules & priorities (and planned for the team building), the spontaneity of things added to the excitement and energy. There was one time he brought us to an indoor paintball game, and the employees felt so high and recharged after just 30-45 minutes of game. There is one company I came to know whose employees run every Wednesday afternoon for 45-60 minutes. The bursts of oxygen definitely help the employees clear and refocus their minds, and create ideas and energy around the ideas.
Discover & harness your high-potential Talents. Have that good, old-fashion but powerful conversation with your employee about what motivates him/her, what he/she wants to do differently, and what he/she wants to do in the near future. Do this at the beginning of the year, and then facilitate the creation of an executable personal action plan, which has a mix of short- and long-term activities. Have 2 to 3 follow-up discussions throughout the year. I had an employee who wanted to do a sales work after being a marketing assistant for a couple of years. I tried her out first by making her a part-time junior account manager while still doing marketing support half of time. Coupled with training and coaching, and her enthusiasm, she provided us a breath of fresh air – the much-needed creative and innovative approach to the role. She eventually became a full-time account manager.
Of course, all these approaches & solutions work well if both employees and managers do their part. Employee has to recognize and seize the opportunities given him/her. The manager has to consciously make an effort to “break the routine” to make way for pockets of creativity and innovation. And to do this continually until it becomes embedded into the company’s culture or system to inspire and nurture creativity and innovation.