Creativity at Work…Through Increased Workplace Structure?

Topic: Creativity, Strategic HR, Stress
Publication: Human Resource Management (NOV/DEC 2010)
Article: Does Structuring of Human Resource Management Process Enhance Employee Creativity? The Mediating Role of Psychological Availability
Authors: G. Binyamin, A. Carmeli
Reviewed By: Lauren A. Wood

The environment of the modern workplace is increasingly becoming more dynamic and unstable leading employees to perceive high levels of work-related stress. To battle this increased uncertainty in the external environment and provide a sense of stability to employees, organizations are looking internally at the way human resources processes are designed. Structuring of HRM processes consists of 7 essential dimensions: strategic alignment with organizational goals, managerial engagement, employee job functions structured and evaluated based on a job analysis, clarity of HRM policies and evaluation criteria, planning, flexibility, and internal consistency or synergy of all processes. Structuring HR around these 7 dimensions was shown to help alleviate employee stress perceptions by decreasing feelings of uncertainty.  

Despite these positive outcomes, intuitively, it seems that by providing a structured work place, employee creativity (an indispensable factor for knowledge work) would decrease. However, as the authors of the current study show, this does not appear to be the case – because structuring HRM processes around the 7 dimensions decreased perceived employee stress and uncertainty, employees’ psychological availability (psychological recourses an employee can allocate to a given situation) was freed-up, allowing room for higher-order cogitative processes like creativity.

In other words, because their work environment is more stable and therefore predictable, employees no longer needed to spend time and psychological recourses trying to predict and cope with the unstable environment of the past, and this leads to an increase in employee creativity and possibility a competitive edge for the company.  

The results of this study suggest that in order to gain a creative advantage HRM processes need to be structured based on the 7 essential dimensions. However, implementation is only the first step. HR professionals should also reassess the organization’s progress, locating gaps between the desired state and current progress as well as work to obtain buy-in from management.             

Binyamin, G. & Carmeli, A. (2010). Does structuring of human resource management process enhance employee creativity? The mediating role of psychological Availability. Human Resource Management, 49, 999-1024.