Attendance is Mandatory, Creativity is Not: Why Your Corporate Culture is Rewarding the Wrong Behavior
In school, people are measured by their grades while tracking attendance is a minor footnote. So in the workplace, why do we shift to fixate primarily on attendance and not focus more on performance? Also, why do we act as if having warm bodies filling seats is the magic formula for business success?
The reasons are varied. Attendance is easy to measure and concrete. Or perhaps, our manufacturing roots are to blame. The idea is as long as you show up, that’s all that matters. I’m pretty sure that you will slot into your position on the assembly line and do your part. Additionally, one may even question if it’s possible to measure something as abstract as creativity. However, what if there are reasons we don’t want to hear? Maybe that’s why we don’t ask the questions! What if an open and enthusiastic conversation with your employees brought up unexpected responses? “I don’t have the tools, support, guidance, etc. to properly tap into my creativity?” Or worse, “Uhmm…your management style creates a culture where creativity is stifled!” What then?
Paying for creativity isn’t the answer either. Companies need results, so they need to shift their reward system to reward results creating behaviors. However, in today’s knowledge economy, creativity is one of the most important tools of trade.
Let’s go back to manufacturing for a moment. If I set up an assembly line (a process) and distributed a set of design drawings with guidelines and requirements, but then didn’t allow my employees to use any welders or screwdrivers, which are considered the proper tools. How productive would that be?
Productivity and results depend on having the appropriate processes and guidelines in place, while also being able to supply the necessary tools to implement. In physical production ventures, such as a factory or construction site, productivity is concrete and fairly straightforward to measure. Usually, it doesn’t take long before everyone, from the foreman down to the newest assistant, knows who gets things done and who doesn’t.
Even in knowledge ventures with fairly short cycles and obvious outcomes, it quickly becomes apparent who is getting results. Customer service jobs, sales positions, analysts, and data or content generators are able to deliver straightforward productivity numbers. But what about those ventures with long result cycles, like R&D and long-lead sales? In addition, what about complex design or problem-solving environments, such as software development, engineering, or stakeholder consultation? Why do we have to manage creativity?
Creativity is mandatory, especially where problem-solving is key to the job. It is an essential tool in today’s workplace. However, rather than trying to measure and manage creativity, focus on measuring and managing the results. Did you solve the problem? Often if you can answer this question with a yes, it implies that someone was creative in finding a solution or creative in thinking about the available options.
You need to set up a space and environment where someone is free to explore their options and ideas. Without trying to manage or micromanage the creative aspect of their brain. Of course, there should be timelines set in place, but with some freedom. Creativity doesn’t always work well under pressure.
When the tools, and sometimes even the results, are abstract, clear-sighted leadership is critical. Leaders must guide corporate culture and set very visible examples focused on rewards, results and solutions. Then, merely being a “warm body” where a perfect attendance record will no longer be enough.
How to Foster a Results-Oriented Corporate Culture
Creativity is not a job that you can just show up for, clock in and clock out, and have everything completed. Being creative can take a lot more time and resources. It’s a job that is hard to track and hard to monitor, but very important for every business. In your business are you allowing time for creativity to flow freely without setting deadlines? We have been raised in a culture that simply showing up is half the battle. The more people filling the desks, means the more jobs are being done. Are you rewarding your staff for just showing up to work?
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