We got used to the never-ending demand for front-end developers.
Social and cultural changes that led to the demand for new IT jobs created a new reality for the lack of skilled talent.
According to a Forrester report, predictions about 2022 extend the tech talent shortage beyond the IT sector.
One of the most densely underserved areas with talent will be marketing. The report states that “agencies will bet big on creative-driven commerce”.
When there is no one new out there who you can hire to do a job what can you do?
Workplace creativity can be a unique solution to the tech talent shortage in marketing. By expanding your team’s creative skills, you move from hiring and recruitment strategies and grow your company’s competitiveness.
Sometimes, looking for inside solutions is better than looking outside. There are existing ways in which you can solve the tech talent shortage (in marketing and more).
Restructuring the creative resources you already have while encouraging organizational community is the way forward for self-managed teams facing a lack of talent.
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How to Solve the Tech Talent Shortage with Workplace Creativity
It is hard to put workplace creativity under one definition. Self-reported creativity is different from team creativity.
But if you think about what makes a creative work environment, it is openness, trust, and innovation. Asking questions, making observations, experimenting, and connecting the dots, be it between people or things, are creative activities.
How can you use this abundance of opportunities to compensate for the lack of new talent with novelty, usefulness, and innovation?
1. Consider actor–context interaction.
According to research on antecedents of creativity, most leaders have looked at team creativity through an actor-centered or context-centered approach. Simply put, if a project fails due to a lack of creativity, it is either up to the employee or the organization. (This simplistic explanation doesn’t do justice to the concept of actor-context. But as an example only, it will have to serve its purpose.)
There are interactions between the actor and the context that influence creativity. Here are several examples:
- Ethical leadership
- Team member characteristics
- Organizational justice
- Dyad exchanges
- Group-level creativity
Next time, when a project fails, don’t blame it on the employee. Replacing a team member with the one you believe is the right talent and you are desperately trying to find may just bring the same outcome.
Consider how corporate ethics and your role as a leader within the group matter. A conflict between colleagues or an inadequate job role may be crucial to how your team grows and develops.
The point is to think of a broader concept of workplace creativity as an individual characteristic and more of it as a transient cognitive or motivational state highly dependent on synergistic, antagonistic, inhibitory, remedial, and configurational interactions within the organizational context.
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2. Distinguish between creative performance and creative outcomes.
Innovation and application are two facets of workplace creativity on an organizational level while novelty and usefulness of a product describe creativity according to stakeholders.
For example, championing ideas is the job of the manager who wants to develop creative performance behaviors (CPBs).
CPBs are creative activities per se, while creative outcome effectiveness (COE) is the measure of the effects of those activities.
One employee may give hundreds of product ideas but if none of them results in successful projects, are they creative? In terms of CPBs yes.
In contrast, an employee can give a single idea in months which brings the biggest client on board. Are they creative? In terms of COE, yes.
Your task as a manager is to do both:
- Encourage CPBs because focusing only on past COEs will stifle innovation
- Reward COEs because they will drive the most value on the level of the organization.
Creative performance behaviors support cross-situational measurement of creativity. Creative outcome effectiveness is more context-dependent.
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3. Account for the role of work autonomy in creativity.
Workplace creativity has personal and contextual characteristics as well as interactions among the contextual characteristics in an organization. But work autonomy is equally important. You can support work autonomy through its three facets:
- Method autonomy relates to the level of discretion for the techniques and procedures employees use to perform a task.
- Schedule autonomy is about the freedom employees exercise about their work schedules.
- Criteria autonomy is the say employees have over the criteria for measuring their performance.
All three types of work autonomy contribute to workplace creativity.
In a nutshell, if you let employees have autonomy over how, when, and how well they work, you boost their creativity. Instead of solving the global talent shortage by hiring new people, you develop new skills within your existing team by empowering autonomy.
4. Job design
According to Buchanan, job design is the “…specification of the contents, methods, and relationships of jobs in order to satisfy technological and organizational requirements as well as the social and personal requirements of the job holder.”
Job design is a powerful tool you can use to provide more value to employees. Let the team have the freedom to decide on including activities such as:
- Rearranging work with division of labor, group tasks, and automation
- Delegating interesting and fulfilling work the employee likes to enrich the job
- Enabling self-managed job rotation — one team member swaps places with another to generate new ideas
With plenty of possibilities to restructure virtual work, you can experiment with job design with flexible working, telecommuting, and creating freelance teams.
5. Organizational context
The organizational context has a bit of the climate and the culture in it.
It is the manager’s task to eliminate demotivating factors to support employees in giving their best and by fostering a context that supports creativity:
- Be generous with the freedom about the methods for reaching set goals
- Provide work resources, information, and time to develop new ideas
- Balance task complexity by assigning challenging but not overwhelming tasks
- Group people with diverse skills and backgrounds
- Provide support and recognition
Does solving the tech talent gap look more feasible now?
While you do need to hire a new front-end developer if you have none, you can use any of the above methods to find creative solutions within the existing team. You can restructure projects with freelance talent and provide plenty of job autonomy if you want high-performing teams that deliver top results.
You may not solve all talent shortage issues but you will unload a huge chunk of stress if you nurture workplace creativity and foster the spirit of community.