MONDAY 14 SEP 2015 10:24 AM


Recent research carried out in the Asia-Pacific region indicates that a disparity is emerging between business leaders and their increasingly creative workforces.

Contention is arising due to belief that workforce ability to expand creatively is being compromised by old-fashioned, rigid management structures; while those in senior positions are required to remain in control of their diversifying and resourceful workforce.

The study, conducted by marketing and consulting company SapientNitro, suggests that only 15% of employees rate those at the head of their employment base highly. Furthermore, only 9% of those employed at a middle management level attest to their business leaders fully understanding how business can emotionally impact those of a lower-level workplace position.

In Asia, many tensions arising between the workforce levels can be attributed to what North American sociologist and economist Richard Florida describes as the rise of a ‘creative class’. Broadly defined as an acknowledgement of the rise in creative talent in almost every industry sector since the beginning of the twentieth century, the ‘creative class’ is a particularly resonant feature in Asian cities which are urbanising at an unprecedented rate. Where clever economics and a business head were once paired with smart shoes to create the image of a model employee, other traits such as entrepreneurship and artistic flair are now considered as much of an asset to business growth as financial acumen. Smart appearance is also becoming a less desirable feature. As a result, the often rigid structures of the more traditional workplace can be at odds with explorative and creatively-minded employees.

Melanie Cook, head of strategy for SapientNitro in Singapore and Hong Kong, highlights how ubiquitous internet access still has not engendered equality between management and employees. Social media development in particular was a point of interest developed by Cook, speaking at a Spikes Asia event last Wednesday, ‘It’s still an ubiquitous structure, most people in this room still have a boss. It beggars belief, I’m empowered to change the world via Twitter but not to change my workplace.’

With only 13% of workers worldwide confirming a satisfactory level of engagement with their job, the rise of restlessness in the creative class is not only confined to Asia. However, recent figures also indicate that these increasing levels of creative talent are emerging alongside a decreasing fear of employees moving on if the job is not right for them.

The research shows that 75% of employees would consider leaving a workplace if a new opportunity arose, and particularly if they felt creatively restrained from a management level. It is now increasingly common for employees to stay at a workplace for as little time as between 18 months and two years, suggesting a less static career is another feature of the developing creative class.

In Asia and worldwide, perhaps the priority of business leaders should be to re-engage with their employees on a creative level while reinforcing their position as a resilient yet approachable figurehead.