How to Motivate Every Type of Creative

You’ve been doing more with less, whether it’s people or project budgets, for the past few years. Fortunately, things are beginning to turn around for your company, meaning more resources for your department. This is great news, but it’s tempered with the knowledge that as the economy picks up, so does the opportunity for your best employees to find other jobs. Now more than ever you should be focusing on employee motivation.

During the recession, keeping morale high might have simply meant doing your best to protect your employees from job loss, but now the task is more complex. To keep your best and brightest, you must identify what will make them more excited about their jobs, whether it’s money, praise or new projects. Following is a list of some of the most common creative types and what motivates each one.

The purist. This person wants to do phenomenal work and get recognition for it. While this is true of many creatives, this individual is more driven in this regard. She is likely very talented, intense, a bit of a loner and uncompromising when it comes to projects, making it both a joy and a pain to work with her. The way you can keep the purist motivated is through praise, some level of autonomy and the latest tools. Specifically, you’ll want to give this person genuine, positive feedback and challenging projects so she’ll feel proud of her work; look for opportunities to enter her work in competitions. (You may have to push to do this since the purist often feels her work isn’t good enough if it was compromised in any way during the design process.) Offer her as much project-related autonomy as you can since she probably likes to run the show. Last, if possible, set up an artistic environment; surroundings and equipment are important to her. This individual enjoys the latest tools, whether it’s software or design publications.

The social butterfly. He likes to have friends at work and often goes to lunch with coworkers; this person often gets together with colleagues after hours. He’s a people-pleaser and likely more willing to compromise than others in your department. In fact, approval is everything to this individual, so you’ll want to be careful with criticism. The way to engage the social butterfly is to focus on what he enjoys most: people. Let him work on group or cross-departmental projects and have him interact with clients. Send him to a conference and ask him to share the information with the rest of the group. And let him socialize. While chatting with colleagues during the day may seem like an unproductive thing to do, as long as it’s not excessive, you should let him take the time to chat. These interactions often spur new project ideas or solve a creative block. Last, if you need someone to organize a group function, this is your man!

The “show me the money” type. This isn’t a typical creative type, and this person probably wasn’t always focused on finances, at least not at the beginning of his career. But it’s likely things have changed for him; he bought a house, had children or dreams of retiring at 45. Whatever the case, the way to get the best work from this individual is through raises, spot-bonuses or stock options. Good feedback may be nice, but cash back is the way to keep him content.

The climber. This staff member wants prestige. She’d like a corner office and maybe even your job. She’s very “to do” list oriented and wants to be seen as a leader. In fact, you’re going to lose this person if there isn’t a clear next step in her career path. Make sure there’s room for this person to grow, even if it’s in title only, because the added prestige may be enough to keep her happy. The climber is also a good mentor for junior staff members because she’ll take the job very seriously. Last, because this personality type can be domineering and abrasive at times, she could benefit from going to a management conference to build her “soft” skills.

The rock. This person produces consistent, good work. He’s probably introverted and very detail-oriented; he likes routine and doesn’t enjoy surprises. You don’t want to give him last-minute projects, if possible. It’s good to recognize him in an email or in person when he does a good job instead of in front of large groups since that’s likely to embarrass him. Because this type enjoys routine, it’s best to introduce change gently. For instance, instead of bursting into his office and telling him to switch gears immediately to begin a new project, try stopping by and asking him about his project load. See if you can help rearrange some of his priorities so he can take on something new. Emphasize that the additional project includes many responsibilities that he’s already a pro at, so it shouldn’t be too different from the norm.

Most managers probably already know some of the primary motivators for employees, but there’s no “one size fits all” approach, especially with creative personalities. And keep in mind that some people may be a combination of the categories above. By understanding what excites your team members most about their jobs and doing your best to provide it, you’ll not only improve your relationship with each staff member, but you’ll also establish a working environment they won’t want to leave anytime soon.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.