How to successfully manage creative employees

Last checked and updated on November 25, 2020

In our modern, competitive world, creative employees are more important than ever. A study by StrategyOne found that 7 in 10 people felt that being creative is valuable to their country’s economy. Most businesses require employees like these in order to really make it because typically they are the ones that come up with ideas that can set your company apart from the rest. These can be marketers, designers, copywriters, or even engineers. 

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Supervising these creative types, however, is never an easy task. You have to ensure that you are providing them with an environment that encourages such creative exploration and risk-taking. This means that you are going to have to stay on top of your creative employees, ensuring that they stay within timelines and on budget.

It is also important to remember that these are individuals and that a one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to work. Managing them will likely require more tailored, unique approaches. Here are some to consider. 

Build a strong team spirit

Most likely you will find that creative employees prefer to work alone so you will have to make sure that they maintain a connection to the rest of the team. You should ensure that each member of the team is involved in the early stages of a project so that everyone is familiar with their shared goals, deadlines, and the overall scope of the project.

The challenges that you will face when managing highly creative employees are going to take time, but you should maintain patience and consistency. Doing this can result in extremely effective collaboration and brainstorming sessions. This will also provide your team with much more synergyand the overall outcome will be much better than you would get otherwise.

Make sure to emphasize teamwork over individual accomplishments. This helps prevent any one employee from feeling singled out and makes the team stronger. For example, instead of saying “John, do you know what you did wrong here?” consider saying “What can we do to prevent this from happening in the future?”

You should also avoid giving praise to the team as a whole and then turn around and single out individuals when something goes wrong. Every team member should be held accountable for the results, both good and bad, as a team.

Be careful with negative feedback

It is very important to ensure you don’t critique people. Instead, you should critique their work. Creative individuals have a deep sense of pride in their work. Because of this, you should be careful choosing your words when providing feedback of a negative nature.

Never use words that can make the employee feel like they are being attacked personally. For example, avoid saying something like “There is no way you are going to meet the deadline if you keep working like this.” Instead, you can offer helpful suggestions to help your employees meet the required goals. You are also likely going to have to adapt your approach to each individual.

Value their individualism

There is one thing that is common with nearly all creative individuals. They greatly value their individualism. That means that as a manager you are going to have to make a point of providing recognition for these individual qualities that they add to the team. Great managers are aware of both the strengths and weaknesses of each employee and make adjustments accordingly. 

By doing this you will be able to group teammates up in order to account for the deficiencies that you would otherwise see. You want to be patient, flexible, and remember that it is the differences in your employees that makes them valuable to your company.

Enable them to grow

Another thing that you will notice about these creative types is that they do not like to stagnate. They are always looking for new ideas and techniques that they can utilize. Because of this, you want to do your best to send your creative employees to things like workshops and conferences that will help them grow professionally. Employees are 32% more likelyto be the first to market an innovative solution than their peers at organizations that don’t value workplace learning. 

You don’t want them getting bored, because they may just look for something more fulfilling at another company. You want to make sure that they feel challenged and that the work they do is necessary for the success of the business. A creative employee that is left to stagnate may have their work suffer as they will not be inspired to do better.

Foster a creative work environment

The environment that we work in can play a massive role in creativity. The best way to ensure a creative employee is able to work at his or her full potential is to provide an appropriate workspace. Bright colors, natural lighting, and open space all contribute to a beneficial work environment. You can place artwork on your walls, or you even set up a showcase highlighting the company’s work and the successes of your team members.

Another thing that you should keep in mind is that your employees should be made aware of the seasons, if any, when the company will become much busier. It is a good idea to promote proper rest all year long, but especially during those busy times. You don’t want your creative employees getting burned out on the work and losing their creativity.

Offer praise

One mistake that many managers make is not providing the appropriate praise. Some managers will only address their employees and provide feedback if something has gone wrong. You want to make sure that you take the time to respond to good work as well. We mentioned previously how you shouldn’t single out individuals. That isn’t the case with positive feedback. Everyone loves to get a compliment.

Managing creative employees is not an easy task. You will have to think differently than you typically do. Be careful when making assumptions about what a good employee is. Foster a collaborative and supportive environment where you can encourage their talents. All employees, not just the creative types, thrive when their leadership is willing to do what is necessary to promote their strengths. 

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