How to use technology and space to spark employee creativity

Encouraging creativity in your staff improves employee retention rate and boosts workplace morale. Sally Elliott of Microsoft shares her tips on how to do it right.

Fostering creativity in the workplace can be challenging, but it’s doable.

Business leaders are starting to realise the importance of offering employees the skills and tools they need to thrive in this new world of work– otherwise, they run the risk of high staff turnover and an unproductive, unhappy workplace.

There are many ways for businesses to achieve this, but one crucial aspect is ensuring that they nurture their employees’ creativity. What creativity essentially means is the ability to solve problems in an innovative way and thinking outside of the box, which is critical to success in any industry.

So it should come as no surprise that more and more, creativity is taking centre stage as the skill that can impact business success, the tool that could set us apart from machines and the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that by 2020, employees will have to become more creative in order to thrive in the future workplace.

Why is creativity so important for small business to attract and retain staff?

The road to business success starts within the workplace, and a creative workforce that feels empowered to innovate, and that has the freedom to work in the way that suits them will also be a satisfied and engaged workforce.

As Steelcase’s Global Report into engagement in the workplace shows, engaged employees are more enthusiastic and help the business grow. Despite this, and the important role that creativity plays in the workplace, our research showed that 75 per cent of employees say they have not been offered the relevant training within the past two years.

Companies must nurture creativity in their existing employees in order to create an engaged workforce, but also to retain talent and become forward-thinking employers, thus making themselves more attractive to the young, fresh graduates that have been brought up in this technology-heavy environment.

It is time to think differently. Now is the time for small businesses to take creativity to the next level and use this skill to not only stay afloat, but grow, prosper and boost their employee engagement and retention levels.

Up your tech game

One way in which small businesses can reach this stage is by implementing the technology and workplace culture that unlocks creative potential – helping people capture great thinking and bring ideas to life in powerful, seamless and intuitive ways.

Despite the huge importance of fostering creativity in the workplace, the right systems aren’t currently in place to encourage creativity – Microsoft recently discovered how outdated technology is amongst the top ten barriers that prevent staff being creative at work. From dusty desktops to rusty servers, you name it, the legacy systems are still there and are preventing businesses to creatively innovate.

Choosing technology that encourages freedom thinking and flexible working to tackle problems individually or collaboratively, is important. In addition, there is a need to introduce technology that can step into the background and act as almost an extension of the employee and as a catalyst for great ideas.

By making this change, businesses are taking the first steps towards creating an environment where the resident talent feels appreciated, nurtured and empowered with the right tools that are versatile and fit every working style.

This way, they are also presenting themselves to prospective talent as companies that understand what the modern employee needs in order to do more than just get by so that they truly thrive in the workplace.

Tech productive office team

Create an inspiring physical space

Another key step for businesses in this journey to prepare themselves and their workforce for the new way of working is making changes to the physical workspace. In fact, almost 25 per cent of employees say they believed a work environment that offers a mix of diverse spaces that foster collaboration, socialisation and focused work would boost creativity.

Related: Superior Interiors – How to improve productivity by investing in the right office furniture

In turn, this means that staff is more engaged and doesn’t feel chained to their desks, but rather empowered to work from the location that suits them and that can spark their creativity. This can then be a key selling point for businesses, who can really say that their work environment is in line with what the modern professional wants and needs.

For small businesses, the prospect of changing the office environment can seem daunting, costly and time consuming. But, it doesn’t need to be and there are some simple ways to up your office game.

For example, businesses can offer a variety of settings that encourage both physical and virtual collaboration between teams across multiple locations. They can also provide a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces that offer posture choices and encourage walking to create physical and emotional energy, stimulate the mind, improve alertness and enhance focus.

Ultimately, businesses of all sizes in the UK, including smaller ones, are faced with having to make a choice between taking the necessary steps in order to foster creativity and innovation amongst their employees, or failing to become one of the companies that employees fight to be a part of.

If you do one thing today, give your employees the tools they need to feel empowered and move away from their desks, and provide them with a more creative, agile and collaborative working environment. You’ll see the changes right away and you’ll be able to reap the benefits of a more motivated and engaged workforce.

Sally Elliott is the portfolio lead at Microsoft UK.

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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