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How to build a curious team 

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As children, we explore the world with a fresh pair of eyes and an innate desire to understand what surrounds us. Turning every stone, opening doors that aren’t meant to be opened or climbing a precarious tree are all parts of our growth journey. As we move into adulthood, we grow more familiar with the world and pick up several inhibitors to our sense of curiosity along the way - fear of failure, falling into a comfort zone or simply just not having enough time.
 
But curiosity and instilling it into company culture is important for organisations. It fuels innovation and growth, allowing individuals and teams to explore new ideas, offer fresh perspectives and deliver solutions. Ultimately, curiosity ignites a cycle of learning, improvement and a more trusting and collaborative environment, allowing both leaders and employees to adapt to changing market conditions in our ever-evolving world of work. By encouraging curiosity from the top-down, companies can greatly improve their way of working.
 
Curiosity is also critical because it’s such a powerful driver for self-directed learning in the workplace due to its inherent ability to drive motivation, enhance employee engagement and promote continuous professional growth. It enhances the learning experience and when driving self-directed learning, it gives workers autonomy over their learning journey.
 
There are many benefits to building a culture of curiosity in your team, but there can be just as many blockers. In one survey of over 3000 workers across varying industries and roles in the US, only 24 per cent of workers reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis and approximately 70 per cent said they faced barriers to asking more questions at work [1].
 
In addition to the ongoing skills shortage, learning has become integral for employee retention, with three of the top five factors that drive people to pursue new jobs reflecting their desire to develop new skills and grow [2]. This is easier said than done though when other pressures compete for a worker’s priority leaving little room for curiosity and innovative thinking.
 
So what are the benefits and common barriers to curiosity, and how do you start implementing the changes necessary to begin building a culture of curiosity in the workplace that will drive more success for your organisation?

Benefits of curiosity for organisations and its employees

Innovation and creativity:

Organisations with a culture of curiosity are more likely to foster innovative behaviours [3]. When employees possess a sense of curiosity, they are inclined to delve into new concepts, pose thought-provoking inquiries and bring diverse approaches to the table.
 

Stronger team collaboration:

Curious employees embrace the exploration of others' viewpoints and ideas, nurturing an environment conducive to collaboration and improved teamwork. This inclusive approach bolsters cohesion among team members and promotes the generation of innovative ideas.
 

Skill development:

Curious employees are more willing to learn and acquire new skills. Their desire to explore different areas can lead to cross-functional expertise and a broader skill set. This can enhance not only their career prospects and job satisfaction but also fill in the necessary skill gaps in your organisation as they appear.
 

Employee retention and loyalty:

Organisations that nurture curiosity create an environment that values learning and growth. Our latest Salary Guide showed that keeping employees engaged through training, learning and career progression are all major contributors that lead to attraction and retention, and a culture of curiosity is a key driver of this.

How to encourage curiosity?

It all starts with leaders enabling this culture, and while many will understand it’s importance, they may not be entirely sure of how best to encourage and create space for it in their teams. Here are some steps to help you get started.
 

1. Identify the barriers that are inhibiting curiosity

You need to be able to determine what is holding workers back from being curious in the first place. Fear of even asking questions can be a significant factor for people if they don’t want to say the wrong thing or seem incompetent at their role. To help ensure leaders are emphasizing psychological safety for employees and encourage open communication to create a supportive environment where voicing concerns or questions is valued. Is the technology used challenging for some? Look to introduce a mentor program where more advanced users can help train others in the team.
 

2. Lead by example

A leader’s behaviours can greatly impact an employee’s motivations, actions and curiosity in the workplace. Managers can be trained to adopt a coaching leadership style, where creative solutions to problems can be fostered, instead of the standard correction of poor performance. Developing this skill as a leader will significantly impact your employee’s perceived permission to be curious themselves.
 

3. Involve your team

Being explicit with your staff regarding the establishment of curiosity and innovation as cultural objectives within the company is important. Engage your team in this process by asking for input on how everyone can contribute to these goals. For example, brainstorming sessions involving cross functional teams to surface insights and suggestions on how to implement innovation and curiosity into daily workflows. When leaders demonstrate that they are curious by asking staff for input, the team can then evaluate how they could get there. This approach might also allow your staff to unearth ways to reduce barriers to fostering curiosity. Using surveys among team members is also an effective way to unveil issues that can be quickly addressed.
 

4. Reward employees

When workers are given tangible benefits and rewards, curiosity can be seen as a trait they want to develop and aim for. Not all ideas suggested in open discourse have to lead to innovations or benefits to the company but thinking outside of the box to find collective solutions can be just as beneficial.  
 
A true culture of curiosity may start with encouraging employees to ask questions – it motivates self-directed learning and enables employees to positively strive for better, innovative thinking, together. Allowing space for the questions, but then following up with ways to bring people together to find solutions to those questions in a way that is safe, supportive and encouraging of new ideas and ways of doing things. Implementing new solutions and ways of working can then also be approached with a sense of curiosity and a test and learn mindset, creating a resilient team that can adapt and move forward when challenges and changes happen.
 
Once the curiosity has been sparked, you can help guide their learning journeys with free access to Hays Learning
 
 
 

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