How to Manage and Retain Creative Thinkers in the Nation’s Capital

by Susan Mullin

creative people

Employers want to hire creative people ­– or think they do – but they often don’t know how to manage them. You bring people on board because they’re rule breakers, outside-the-box thinkers. Then, however, they frustrate you for the very same reasons. When it comes to filling marketing communications jobs in DC, creative thinking is an absolute must-have. People who are curious and unafraid of risk are essential to your successful marketing team. It’s up to you to learn how to manage creative people to get the best from them by keeping them challenged and engaged.

Understand What Motivates Them

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated. The leaderboard that keeps your sales team pumped up will garner only death glares from your creatives. You’ll get better results if you provide them with an end goal and let them find their process for achieving it.

Embrace Flexibility

Truly creative people cannot thrive in rigid environments with too many rules, systems and processes. Employers who hope to nurture creative thinking should bend a little in areas where they can afford to. For example, if no customers visit the building, a relaxed dress code is appropriate or let them work from home when big clients are due to arrive.

With cloud-based project management system in place, some form of schedule flexibility is possible when goals and expectations are clear. Commit to building a culture that inspires people to work autonomously and promotes collaboration, innovation and creativity.

Foster Flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s discusses the concept of flow in their book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Csikszentmihalyi, a recognized authority on the study of creativity, theorizes that flow is essential to optimal creativity. You may understand flow better as being “in the zone.” It’s a period of intense focus in which you are fully focused and immersed in a task. It’s an enjoyable and productive period of work and thought. Creative people need more dedicated periods of flow than most, but it’s valuable for virtually anyone.

Provide Freedom

Creative thinkers are eager to innovate. They’ll try an idea and if it doesn’t work, they will try something else. Failure is inevitable on the way to solving problems, so give creatives the freedom to try and test new things if you want to retain them.

Give Them a Little Rope

Long and uninspiring projects make creative people easily bored. Build time into their schedule to work on special projects that capture their interest and help your business to grow. Consider the occasional FedEx Day. An Australian software company initiated this idea. It’s essentially a 24-hour period where the team puts aside everything else they are working on to focus on innovation that benefits the company and produces a deliverable product or process at the end of the day.

Allow Time for Brainstorming

While creative people often prefer to work alone, some of the best ideas come out of brainstorming sessions. And working with team members will increase engagement, one of the primary keys to retention. Allow dedicated brainstorming time, where you accept and encourage all ideas.

Challenge Them

Do whatever it takes to move creative people out of their comfort zones to make the most of their abilities. You must handle this on an individual basis. It all depends on what makes sense for the employee. Consider supervisory duties, more client contact or a more flexible schedule.

Celebrate Success

Even self-motivated people need to know they are appreciated. Managers and leaders should be generous with the words “thank you” and “nice work.” Everyone wants their efforts and contributions to be recognized and saying thanks is just a good practice all around, but it is especially important in keeping creative thinkers engaged and feeling appreciated.

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Posted in , Hiring Managers