Employee creativity and innovation are essential for the success of any business, particularly in times of economic turmoil. There is a clear connection between employee engagement and innovation according to a 2006 Gallup poll. Engaged employees are more creative and more willing to accept innovative ideas from others. Most CEOs value creativity, and employees who are allowed to be creative are more engaged with their current positions. A company's culture can either foster or stifle innovation. Fortunately, business leaders are able to shape a more creative work environment if they follow a few basic guidelines.

Maintain an open dialogue between employees and upper management

Dialogue will effectively motivate and engage employees. Always allow employees to present their ideas before important decisions are made. Provide feedback to employees, even when their ideas are not used, so that they know that they are not being dismissed.

Encourage communication between departments: Collaboration between members of different departments often results in creative solutions for problems. Interdepartmental communication facilitates trust and prevents conflict. Departments that do not communicate are more likely to blame each other when problems arise.

Organize brainstorming sessions

IBM has found the innovation jam to be quite successful. Since 2001, jams have allowed hundreds of thousands of IBM employees around the world to connect and come up with innovative solutions for company problems. You do not need to run a global enterprise to benefit from companywide collaboration. Give your employees regular opportunities to bounce ideas off each other.

Engage employees by encouraging them to share creative ideas

Do notlimit creativity to special occasions. Employees should be encouraged to continually share their ideas with supervisors and each other. Find the most effective method of communication for your organization. You may want to create a type of suggestion box or schedule time at the end of meetings for people to share their ideas.

Do not force people to be innovative

Creativity can be encouraged but not compelled. Forcing people to present creative ideas at certain times will not bring true innovation. Rather, create a number of different incentives to draw out creativity. Innovative ideas could be rewarded financially, with opportunities for advancement or any other incentive you have found effective for your employee base.

Remain flexible and forgiving

Inflexible environments discourage innovation. Innovation often involves taking risks. Encourage employees to think outside the box and implement ideas without interference. Additionally, do not punish employees if ideas are unsuccessful. Employees who are punished for taking risks serve as a warning to others against being creative or innovative.

Keep track of company innovations

Many leaders in upper management lose interest in supporting creativity and innovation because they do not bother to keep track of past innovations. Knowing how many employee innovations have been implemented and how successful they are, presents a clear picture of the financial benefits of employee creativity. Keeping track of innovations will also indicate whether any alterations need to be made to recently implemented programs or the company culture.