The Power of Creativity

Image created by: Catarina Fonseca Chaica

Recognising, Recruiting and Nurturing Creativity

By Tim McEwan, MD – Talent Advisory & Development, Sheffield Haworth & Richard Sant, Head of Careers and Employability at the University of Arts London


From the fortieth floor to the factory floor, every company needs creative people – problem solvers who embrace change and clearly communicate new ideas.

Over the coming months, Sheffield Haworth is releasing a series of articles about the importance of creativity in the world of work. To do this, we have partnered with University of the Arts London (UAL) who bring a unique set of insights into the application of creativity in the work place.  Together, we want to start a conversation and really engage with you and your people on this vital issue.


What are employers looking for today?

Today’s employers are looking for three things – technical ability, cultural fit and diversity. 30 years’ ago, only technical ability really mattered. Can you do the job? And when can you start?

But managers soon realised that technical ability alone was not enough. Prospective employees had to be a ‘good fit’ for a business’ culture a shared set of values, goals and attitudes. Companies have a culture whether they like it or not, it’s about building one that’s positive and finding the right people.

Diversity has also been an important factor for a number of years, but has taken on greater importance in recent months.  Bringing people with different backgrounds into an organisation is vital. But we should also be looking for different ways of thinking.

We call this diversity of thought and it’s a driver for creativity in organisations. But, what do we mean by creativity?


Recognising creativity – it’s not all about art

Creativity is hard to define, which is part of the challenge for employers. Thoughts turn to the arts – to painting, writing, music. But definitions don’t need to be so literal. Creativity isn’t just about the act of creation, it’s a unique way of thinking, acting, and viewing the world, which is nurtured in those who study creative disciplines, yet exists in all of us. When we challenge findings and conclusions, come up with unique solutions to problems, and clearly convey new ideas, we are being creative. Art and business innovation alike start with a blank sheet of paper and create something new – creative people can apply this skill in a number of environments.

As businesses, we all need to recognise creative individuals and the value they can add, even though many may have come from very different backgrounds to our other employees. But to ensure that the right businesses find the right talent, we at Sheffield Haworth also need to reassure those creative people, “This is your main selling point and you need to shout about it.”

If too many businesses are missing out on creative talent, where do these would-be employees end up?


Recruiting creativity – Why we need to think flexible

Source: Hitachi Capital

A recent survey found that graduates of arts institutions are more likely to start their own business or work for themselves than even those who attended Oxford and Cambridge, with UAL coming out on top. This doesn’t surprise us, given what we know about the huge benefits of creativity. Does it not make sense, for example, that creative people with the skills to recognise and tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead might want to forge their own path?

These findings speak to the need for employers to recognise and nurture creativity, not stifle it. No one sits down to be creative at nine and then switches it off like a light at five – that’s part of what makes it such a unique quality in the workplace.  But to attract and keep creative people, how we organise work at a fundamental level may need to change.

Getting the best out of creative individuals means being open to flexibility and many people with creative background have always understood that being their own boss is the easiest way to achieve this. But the world may be catching up with this thinking. Everyone is becoming an entrepreneur and lockdown has taught more people how to be flexible – some employers have grasped this and some are still catching up. Employers that appreciate the benefits of flexibility and the independent thinking it encourages have welcomed the change. Those, however, that have fought against change and have tried to hurry people back into the office may find themselves left behind.

We all need to think about how we attract – not to mention retain – the creative individuals that will shape the new world of work.


Nurturing creativity – a skill set for the future of work

Articles detailing which jobs will be lost to artificial intelligence are often met with shock. Indeed, many will be gone by 2030 and some are professions people once thought immune to digitisation.

So, what’s left? The World Economic Forum has emphasised the importance of creativity, problem solving and critical thinking in today’s job market. In 10 years’ time, these attributes may be everything. If you’re worried about being left behind in this ‘new normal’, ask yourself this, “Are we focused on what used to work or what will work?” Creative people are used to having to create something new and approaching problems from different angles. In a business world that might soon be unrecognisable, isn’t that a skill set worth nurturing?

UAL’s research links the creative process with the following three fundamental capabilities for the future of work:

The skillset to make things happen

The ability to communicate ideas

The capacity to navigate change

Those in creative jobs are also more likely to love what they do. So, make sure they fulfil their potential and your business will benefit today and – more importantly – in the future.

Employers that understand the power of creativity are more likely to hire problem solvers, original thinkers and those who can embrace change.

Join us as we delve deeper into creativity in the workplace

We have designed a series of articles and events over the coming months which will explore some of these ideas further. We aim to help all of us better understand the role of creativity and innovation in our organisations, and to find ways to recruit for and develop it in our staff.  These include:

  • Front Line Creativity – Major General Paul Nanson, former Commandant at Sandhurst, discusses creativity in unlikely environments.
  • Diversity & Creativity Panel Discussion – a lively debate on the importance of creativity in an organisation, with guest speakers who are advocating for this within their own organisations.
  • Assessing for Creativity – Sue Colton, Workplace Psychologist, on how to assess potential candidates for creativity.
  • Recruiting for Creativity – finding creative candidates through a creative search process – Ben Johnson outlines how to think outside the box when searching for candidates in more traditional sectors.
  • Impact of Creativity – interviews with UAL Alumni whose creative backgrounds have helped them to become successful leaders.
  • Creativity & Entrepreneurship – Exploring entrepreneurship and how creativity plays a part in building a business.

To find out more about harnessing creativity in your organisation please contact Tim McEwan or Ben Johnson.

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