Creative license. The freedom to innovate. Permission to take risks. That's what the 750 creative professionals surveyed for our Creative Team of the Future project said they want most from their employers.
Companies that want to maintain a successful business for the long haul and keep creatives happy will need to cultivate an environment that fosters these principles.
Here are seven ideas for changing company culture and attracting — and retaining — top-notch creative talent.
1. Let employees get personal
The work environment matters. Creatives are highly visual people who like to surround themselves with inspiring ephemera. Rigid workspace appearance standards can stifle their creativity and lower their morale. While employees should be expected to maintain a clean, tidy work area, your changing company culture should encourage creatives to construct a personal environment that motivates them.
2. Institute flextime
Some people do their best work at the crack of dawn, while others hit their stride as the sun is setting. Consider changing company culture to accommodate flextime, allowing your early birds to arrive by 7:00 a.m. and leave at 4:00 p.m., while your night owls roll in at 10:30 a.m. and stay through dinner time. Create core hours (11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., for example) that everyone must adhere to.
3. Allow freedom to explore
While surfing the Internet might get the creative juices flowing in a pinch, most professionals have a tendency to want to stretch their legs. Creative individuals draw inspiration from the world around them. Give them permission to visit an art museum, take a hike, try a new restaurant, snap photos in nature or urban environments, or browse a bookstore. Exploration is part of the creative process, helping to keep ideas fresh and flowing. And what might seem like a frivolous activity to some could ignite the creative spark for an employee's next project. Does it really matter how the work gets done if it's accomplished on time and is of high quality?
4. Crank up the tunes
For many professionals, listening to music goes hand in hand with creativity. If your office is small, and your entire team is open to it, consider playing music throughout the office. At some firms, employees take turns choosing playlists each day. If playing music out loud isn't feasible, allow employees to listen to tunes through headphones. While it may not seem like a big deal to some managers, a ban on music or headphones can be a nail in the coffin of creativity for a designer or copywriter.
5. Establish a relaxed dress code
Creatives often express their individuality through their appearance. And a casual dress code can help them feel more relaxed, fostering a culture of collaboration and idea-generation. Allowing casual dress within your office or department doesn't mean abandoning a dress code altogether. You can still maintain appearance standards and establish separate expectations for client interactions while leaving room for personal expression.
6. Add some creative perks
The best creative agencies and in-house departments are known for not only amazing work but also awesome perks and benefits. If you have the budget and flexibility, perks like free food and allowing dogs in the office have been shown to enhance employee retention. Keep in mind, though, that even the charms of on-site happy hours, foosball tables and unlimited snacks are powerless against a creatively stifling environment or micromanagement.
7. Be true to yourself
Which leads to the final — and most important — aspect of company culture: authenticity. If you try to emulate what other companies do without creating a culture that exudes who you really are, it will backfire. Disingenuous attempts to woo employees with cool stuff when your leadership is weak will leave your team feeling skeptical of whether you really want to institute a changing company culture, or you're just trying out a quick fix for an underlying problem.
Changing company culture can take time, so don't feel like you need to implement these ideas all at once. Ask your employees what's most important to them, and then roll out new standards incrementally. They may even have ideas of their own for boosting morale or increasing job satisfaction. The key is to keep the emphasis on creativity and innovation, the lifeblood of your business.