Today’s employees demand an opportunity to contribute beyond the boundaries of their specific jobs. Given the option, most would choose to join organizations whose culture and values align well with their own. They want to be engaged, they want to be consulted, and they want to feel as though they are having a positive impact.

What’s at Stake?
We all live in a highly competitive business climate. Technology is ever more rapidly and ever more profoundly impacting how we do things. The workforce is far more sophisticated than in the past. Technology has granted them access to far more information than what was previously available and they have chosen to use this information to educate themselves more completely about the available opportunities. The workforce is also more flexible and adaptable to change than ever before, and in fact, many of this group actively seek opportunities that drive changes that will profoundly impact the future of their workplace. Organizations that offer opportunities like this are enticing to top talent and we all know that an ability to attract and retain top talent is positively correlated to success.

What Can I Do to Encourage It?
Creating an environment where your employees feel safe debating and challenging one another’s ideas is critical. I like to use the term “constructive conflict” to define what I am feeling here. Embracing a collaborative approach to work; a willingness to question decisions, and the acceptance of these ideals by everyone is representative of what I mean by this term. As a leader, your role is to create a climate in which all of this can occur. Sharing the benefits of collaboration, serving as a role model of the behaviors involved, and holding your team accountable for this level of engagement is essential. Such a climate is reliant on trust and mutual respect and the foundation for this is based on relationships. Allowing time for your team to get to know one another, for you to get to know them, and for them to get to know you is time well spent. Engaging in team building activities or working through team assessments can also prove to be invaluable.

What Outcomes Can I Expect?
If you are making the transition to a climate of creativity and innovation, you can likely expect some struggles initially. Team members may be less transparent than needed, they will likely need to work through the stages of team development, and their sense of trust may be less than ideal as you begin this shift. This likely means that the timeframe needed for decision making and other activities will be increased. Have faith that you are making the right choice here for these initial delays will lead to better decisions – the team will be considering a broader array of factors and will learn to rely on and embrace the diversity of thought and opinion that exists. Longer term, as the team optimizes its inner workings, efficiencies will be realized and while the time to decision may never equal that of an autocratic system, better decisions will result and this can lead to broad-based efficiencies and reduced rework.

Creating an environment that is rich in creativity and innovation takes effort and requires that we as leaders let go of the reins. This may be challenging for some of us but if you really think about it, our team members are generally smarter and more capable than we are and with an appropriate level of guidance can produce great things for our organizations. On top of this, our employees expect to be able to contribute at this level and if they feel stifled, will often seek, and successfully find, other employment. As such, if we expect to attract and retain the top level of talent, an organizational culture that incorporates these ideals is essential.