7 easy ways to attract and retain creative talent on your team

By Rana Florida, guest contributor
In the international best-seller The Rise of the Creative Class, my husband, Professor Richard Florida, described the tectonic forces that are reshaping our economy, our geography, the work we do, and our whole way of life. Just as our economy shifted from an agricultural basis to an industrial one in the late eighteenth century, we are entering a new epoch, in which the most significant driver of economic growth is human creativity.
Leading this transformation are the 42 million Americans who use their minds and their creativity to earn their livelihoods: the creative class. These are the people who produce new designs, new ways of thinking, new discoveries that are readily transferable and widely useful. They work in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries, including high-tech, financial services, law and medicine, business management, design, the arts, academia, and more.
So how do we attract and retain the most creative of these highly individualistic people to our organizations?  Here are seven easy ways: 

  1. First, they value intrinsic rewards over financial ones.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone, including creatives, likes a bonus or a raise, but creatives expect their work to be rewarding in and of itself. They want to feel valued for what they do.  Build in positive feedback and recognition with projects and initiatives.
  2. Give them the tools they need to grow and thrive at their jobs.  Whether that’s professional development or on-the-job training, they need to keep their minds active and engaged.  Once they get bored and stop growing, they move on.  Providing them with ladders to opportunity is important for your next round of leaders and to their personal growth and happiness.
  3. All of us are spending more time at work than we used to. Make being at work as easy for them as possible. Reduce the number of status reports they have to file, and all the other bureaucratic processes and procedures that no one has the time for anymore. Let them concentrate on the work that really inspires them—and that produces value for your firm. 
  4. Make it as easy as possible for them to get to work. Locate your offices close to public transportation. Not only is commuting is among life’s least enjoyable activities, but Creative Class workers don’t want to waste their valuable time sitting in traffic.  The productivity costs of this deadtime has huge implications on their mental well-being.  Locating in downtowns that are walkable and have easy access are key to attracting and retaining such workers.  Also offering satellite locations which gives them the geographical choice of working from offers an added amenity.
  5. Give them the freedom and flexibility they need. If they have to come in late or leave early or work from home due to an illness, a personal issue, or a sick child, allow them.  Don’t hold them accountable to hours; make them responsible for results and empower them to manage their own workload during hours that work for them.
  6. Make your workplace a healthy place, a place where they can take breaks and recharge. If you can afford to provide amenities such as massages, yoga classes, a gym, a lunch room with multiple healthy options, an outdoor nature trail, do so. If you can’t, make sure such services are accessible nearby.  Making your employees healthy not only saves on healthcare costs but resets a Creative Class mind for the next working cycle.
  7. Stimulate, engage and inspire them – the more they share your vision of the organization, the more excited they will be to stay on board and contribute to its success.  Despite the talented engineers and techies at Apple, there was no question that Steve Jobs vision inspired some of the world’s biggest innovations.  New discoveries and innovation requires a team of passionate employees, but without a compelling vision, the path will not be easily navigated.  Make sure to offer a simple and powerful vision for others to follow.

Rana Florida, www.ranaflorida.com, is CEO of the Creative Class Group and Director, FIU-Miami Urban Future Initiative. Her most recent book is “Upgrade: Taking Your Work Life From Ordinary to Extraordinary.”