Retaining competence and harnessing your teams creativity

Lately quite a lot of media has covered the lack of workplace happiness among workes and Gallup has done a great survey in the US of the temperature of how employees are connected to their job. It is quite a depressing read and I am quite certain that it is not isolated to the US sad to say… Read more here

Fast Company has done many good pieces on how to keep your team creative, happy and productive and those are a good read for most managers.

My take on this is that I have experienced quite many bad examples of this personally where companies and management actively surpress the employees creativity and smart ideas.

When a manager is content with where the company is for the moment and is too arrogant, ignorant or just plain uninterested to listen to new ideas, then you have quite a bad recipe for workplace discontent.

If you add the fact that if you are to multitask and sit on several different chairs at the same time, have systems that is not tailored to meet the needs, you just add to the fact that you are making your team less efficient.

There are many examples on this from both private and public sector alike…

A friend of mine works in public healthcare where they have a patient record system that demands several different windows open and updates in several places to manage just one patient. It puts an enormous stress on the staff who struggle to document all patient interactions and treatment, whereas there effort should be focused on treating the patients… The system is also not compatible with the nearby hospitals system so there are a lot of manual labor to update data and unnecessary phonecalls to manage a a transfer of a patient.

A company where I used to work that once was a startup that has grown quite large still operate at the level where they were 8 years earlier… Each consultant has to do their own sales, do all their documentation in systems not suitable for project management, reporting tools that are not suitable for larger amounts of data. On top of that they are doing all analysis themselves.

A gifted consultant in a specific area, is not necessarily a gifted salesperson or a customer relations expert or a technical genius. When facing the management that claims that sales is not enough you get demotivated when you put a serious amount of hours in doing your job. There are just not enough hours to do everything properly or just not competence for certain tasks.

What to do to redeem the issues that risks to seriously hamper the development of your company?

I have a few ideas on it, not mine ideas only but I freely borrow and connect the dots 🙂

Do a thorough analysis of what competences your team have and add the quite important questions on what they judge they could do better or differently in the future in their existing position or if they feel that they could be more useful/productive in a different position. To this you should also ask what they feel that they lack in objectives, management, training.

Googles 4 day work week for standard office work is a good thing too, to create time and possibility for develpoment, “skunk works” and creative new ideas will give you teams that are more engaged and happy.

The idea of skunkworks is famed by Steve Jobs, Ericsson, Xerox among some companies and that has given them an edge in technology or services. Proctor & Gamble have creative labs and invite entrepreneurs to bid for ideas and they are given resources to test and develop ideas. This can bolster the company but you should also do that with your own teams, give people from different positions an opportunity to test their ideas without too much of judgement… The phrases we have tried something similar before… This is the way we always have done it… Are like a wet blanket on creativity and innovation for almost anyone.

I have personally experienced this many times and it always give me a bad feeling for trying to enhance business and efficiency in what I do or how the company could find new revenue streams for the future. Several times has that been the reason for leaving a company because you recess in your own development and get discontent with your day.

I have earlier blogged about how you should involve and empower many different parts of the company in innovation and customer satisfaction. This is how you get a happier workforce according to me and my experiences. This is specifically important to get customer support and the development teams to collaborate and understand the key points from users of products and services.

Also make sure that the systems you buy is compatible with your business needs, never be content with buying a generic system, it might be cheaper when you buy it, but it will have serious implications for your business and teams if they have something that is not optimized for their work.

When you do your yearly assesment and team review, re-think it, do it on a monthly basis to capture possible discontent and new ideas and input on process and development for all parts of your company.

And last but not least make sure that the management team actually understand what their job is about… Managing their teams to be as good as they possibly can and that is no small a task for someone who might have gotten their promotion based on years in service… Not on their skills in managing people….