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We’re All Creators Now, and Work Should Reflect the New Reality

increasing employee creativity in all industries benefits business

The advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in the last several years have been jaw-dropping. It began with the easy dismantling of world-class chess players, which many assumed a computer could never do. But more recently, AI has achieved more impressive feats, such as the notorious protein-folding problem, opening the door to previously-unimaginable possibilities.

Amid these impressive achievements, AI still struggles with one key trait—creativity. Humans remain uniquely able to generate creative solutions to problems that don’t have a clear-cut set of rules. As automation takes on more and more tedious tasks, it’s clear that many employees’ greatest contributions at work will be through their creativity.

However, many employees still spend much of their days on menial tasks. Increasing their time spent on creative tasks results in a win-win for employees and bosses—employees are happier and more engaged at work, but also more productive.

This outcome isn't just a theory. Various studies have shown that more creativity in all kinds of jobs leads to happier workers.

Surveys link creative jobs with happy employees

A survey by staffing firm Robert Half found that employees in creative jobs, such as marketing, reported higher satisfaction in their work compared to more procedural roles in areas like administration and legal.

The good news is that workers in the latter departments aren't doomed to a career without creativity. Taking steps to boost creativity in any job, such as automating repetitive tasks, can increase day-to-day satisfaction. In fact, a recent UiPath study found that 71% of respondents said they could focus more on creative work with the help of automation, leaving them more fulfilled on the job.

Instead of agonizing over time-consuming, error-prone tasks, employees can get their work done more efficiently, leaving time for strategic tasks and, you know, life. Managers would be happy to hear that nearly half of respondents in the same study stated that automation would make them more productive.

So, it's clear that more creativity at work is a good thing, but why? And how can employees and managers alike enable this shift?

When workers put their ideas into a project, it becomes more than just a job

Watching the clock slowly tick during the workday is a daily experience for many employees, and a telltale sign of a detached worker. Happy workers find themselves engrossed in their tasks, and feel that their ideas make a real difference to the company.

Identifying what we love to do, and doing more of it at work, is a good recipe for a fulfilling life. It's easier said than done, as the expression “do what you love, so you don’t work a day in your life” is a fantasy for most of us.

Marcus Buckingham, NY Times bestselling author of "Love + Work," encourages people to position themselves for maximum satisfaction at work. Fortunately, his advice doesn't require turning a career upside down. According to Buckingham, molding your existing role to better suit your strengths can deliver a big boost to daily work satisfaction. A key point within “Love + Work” is that there isn’t a single job or industry that has the perfect level of engaging tasks. Just about any job, with the right support, can be shaped into a creative one.

To hear more insights from Buckingham, join us at FORWARD 5 where he'll be giving a keynote presentation on the ideas in his book.

Engineers and accountants can be creative, too

While musicians and other types of artists are often seen as bringing more originality to their work, other occupations can tap into similar creativity. Systems engineers are required to think critically and manage complex systems, and boast one of the highest satisfaction ratings in the field. On the other hand, software quality assurance engineers, who review code and monitor programs, report lower job satisfaction. Various factors, including company culture and work-life balance, come into play with employee satisfaction. However, creativity in one’s role has been shown to be a key indicator.

Employers can take several steps to cultivate a more fulfilled workforce: 

  • Offer continuing education programs to employees that allow them to enhance their existing skills and learn new ones

  • When possible, involve employees in strategic discussions and encourage them to submit improvement ideas. Not every idea will be implemented, but knowing that their voices are being heard can increase satisfaction

  • Treat failure as a learning opportunity, and encourage team members to take big swings and learn from their mistakes

Automation is just one ingredient in creating a more engaged workforce. An inclusive company culture, appealing mission, and room for autonomy are also necessary pieces of the pie.

However, freeing up employees for more creative work by automating repetitive tasks is a great first step on the journey.

Editor’s note: this is a guest blog post. Views represented in this blog post are the author's own.

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