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Companies Must Cultivate Creative Talent with Care

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The communications department is no longer considered just another bullpen of flaky slackers. Companies now see value-added dollar signs in them. Writers are in huge demand these days and a Golden Age may be upon us. It’s no exaggeration to assert that writers drive the progress of civilization. Without our skills, how can ideas be communicated?

But let’s not celebrate yet. Writers may be invaluable but they are also misunderstood.

As writers are added to a company’s rank and file, a problematic arises: how do you integrate writers with the rest of the staff. Writers are not an easy fit in corporate culture.

“Islands in the Stream / That is what we are” … “And we rely on each other ah-ha” … “And we can ride it together, ah-ha.” Remember that giant Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton hit? Sorry if the song is stuck in your head now, but we can see the corporation/writer relationship in it. Though instead of “love,” we have something like a “win-win” situation—no one can afford to be too misty-eyed here.

Progressive companies with enlightened management understand the care, handling, and retention of writers. There are five steps to enlightenment.

1. To get results, separate writers from the hum. Ideally, and whenever possible, a writing team’s office should be set apart from the rest of the company on another floor, or even in a different building. Invite them to the odd meeting, let them circulate among the rest of the staff as needed, but let them twirl their hair by themselves. No one needs to see this.

As writers acquire knowledge, they can exercise a powerful, and sometimes peculiar or even vulgar, sense of humour that may tend toward bitter at times. It’s best if they don’t fraternize too much with others. They need to think, ponder, and imagine.
Sadly, not all writers are courteous or professional. Some are temperamental and others are just long-winded, pompous asses. Some may not even be good. Alas, there are even a few ingrates among us. But, more often than not, we pull through for a fine finish.

2. Let writers out of the stable. A loyal, trustworthy writer who can sit at a desk for hours upon end is a great find. But even the most steadfast of the breed eventually succumbs to the roaming instinct. Let them wander and they will return to their desks for the deadline.

Every single thing in their lives is scrutinized with a ruthless sense of purpose. Ideas may come just by going to a public washroom. Good managers can tell when a writer is on his or her game. So they make the executive decision! They let the writer take off for a couple of hours.

3. Provide autonomy; it is required for creativity. And creativity is what you need most from your writers. If you must have your writers stay in-house, then try to make them feel unrestricted.

Anything can disturb the delicate ecosystem that is their mind. If asked to be just another cog in the wheel don’t count on them to think straight. When writers feel the environment is poisoned or toxic, they lose almost all motivation to be creative. They’re only there to pay their bills. The loss for the manager in this is dramatic. Writers become so preoccupied, they forget all about your SWOT analysis and your need for added value. Stop leaning on them and watch as they create beauty and draw profitability toward you.

The moment managers utter the words “Tough luck, this is how it is here,” they have spiritually lost the writer forever. To keep your writer¬—and remember you have invested a lot in this employee—never issue any kind of ultimatum. It will fill the writer with indignation and pride and, since these are enemies of creativity, the writer must leave at the first opportunity.

Despite a revolution in the work force, where employees value independence more than ever before, you still need to attend to the needs of a writer with special care. Treat them like entrepreneurs. Work out a fair and equitable contract, spell out all needs, and you and your writers will be happy.

4. Let writers be the eyes and ears of your company as you become truly global. Writers read—a lot. It’s how they acquire their wisdom. And, yes, shocking as it may seem, sometimes they do it on company time. But your scribe is not slacking! Please, no lashes!

Haven’t they suffered enough over the ages?

Writers are driven by curiosity. They’re never satisfied or comfortable with what they know. Often, they’re filled with doubts—self-doubt and other kinds. This keeps them reading and reading … and reading.

And in their research, they find out stuff. This is a huge asset for the writer and for the forward-thinking company that realizes it can’t buy that sort of knowledge just anywhere—unless they abduct a librarian or hire a marketing company whose wisdom and writers come at a higher price.

So when office staff scoff at writers or report their behaviours, companies should dismiss the tattletales: “This is why we have given the writers their own space. And how come you have time to spy on them?” But colleagues who like to stir the pot should watch it. They may end up being mocked in the next office sitcom.

5. Tell writers that their text has been read. They’d like to know. Better yet, when something they have written hits the mark, it’s wise to acknowledge this success with some form of praise. Often, a simple “Thank you for the superb effort” will suffice. But in some instances, a detailed discussion of what worked and why will encourage similar or greater efforts in the future.

Of course, bonus cheques (or cash) will never be refused; client satisfaction certificates and gifts of watches are not necessary.

Now, go give your writer a hug.

With special contribution from Christine Hastie.

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About Alessandro Nicolo