John Cleese keynoted Content Marketing World in Cleveland this week, despite his claim that he knew nothing about marketing. He did, however, know quite a bit about creativity – and that’s something that’s relevant to both marketing and HR.
The British comedian recounted a time when he lost a script and rewrote it from memory. He eventually found the original, compared the two and found that the re-write was better than his first pass. He believes his mind had been unconsciously re-writing the script after he completed it, resulting in an improved second pass.
He said the best ideas are often the result of taking some time away and coming back to the problem later. Creativity can’t be rushed because the mind needs time to process the problem and come up with ideas to solve it. Even if you’re not thinking about the problem, your mind is still working toward a solution in the background.
So, What Does This Have to do With Quality of Hire?
Perhaps a lot.
As an HR professional, you’re responsible for hiring and retaining top talent. In addition to being measured on time to fill, cost to hire and turnover rates, you’re also responsible for quality of hire. Your organization needs top talent to remain innovative and competitive – or you risk becoming irrelevant and folding.
A quality hire is someone who has the skills and experience necessary to be successful in their role, and the traits and personality to be successful in your organization. You and your colleagues carefully screen candidates through their resume, phone calls, in-person interviews and reference checks – but bad hires are sometimes still made.
Have you considered that quality of hire may be impacted by your work environment, and that it’s not entirely due to poor screening? It’s the notion of nature versus nurture. High quality candidates can look like bad hires if their environment isn’t suited for them to reach their full potential. Their past results and positive references could be a product of an environment which caters to creativity – and their underperformance at your organization could be due to a creativity-stifling environment.
Is your workplace a high-stress environment in which employees compete with one another, and projects are expected to be completed with a quick turnaround time? Do you require all employees to be in the office between 8-5? Do your employees skip lunch, work long hours, or work at home on nights and weekends? Do you have an open office floor plan? Any of these things could be stifling your employee’s creativity and, therefore, their performance.
Create an Environment that Improves Quality of Hire
Cleese referenced an observation at a Chicago art school in which students were asked to create still-lifes. They found that the students who took longer to pick out their subjects, and rearranged them multiple times before beginning their project were more successful seven years later than those who quickly picked their subjects and began working.
He also shared how Thomas Edison would utilize hypnagogia to come up with ideas. He’d relax in a chair with ball bearings in his hand and a metal bowl below, so he’d wake up when his hand relaxed and dropped the ball bearings. Edison believed this maximized his productivity and thinking, and credits his naps for his best ideas.
The point here is that the best ideas come when you take the time to let them come to you – not when they’re forced. Being stringent about an 8-5 office schedule may cause employees to be less productive than if they had time to work out in the morning before coming to the office.
Similarly, working parents could be more productive with flex schedules which allows them to pick their children up from school at 3pm, and finish their work after their children go to sleep. Cleese pointed out that you can’t be truly relaxed enough to be creative when your mind is focused on all the tasks you need to complete.
Cleese also pointed out the damaging effects of interruption on creativity – and called out open-office floor plans as a hurdle. Open offices can be great for better collaboration, but make it difficult to concentrate. If you have one, try offering quiet rooms to work, heads-down hours, or remote work options.
While every work environment is different, and one size never fits all, there may be some things you can do to create a more productive and creativity-enhancing environment for employees. Part of being a strategic advisor, and not just an order taker, is bringing these issues up with executives and hiring managers in your organization.
Even small changes, like hiring managers encouraging their team to leave the office for lunch, can make a difference. An office environment that facilitates creativity will result in more productive, innovative, and happier employees. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on your quality of hire – because each employee will have a better opportunity to be successful.