TCG Roadmap: ME…ME…ME (Motivation & Empowerment)

Motivating on a Budget

Motivating staff is a great challenge, especially if budgets are lean. Many creative departments are finding it necessary to do more with fewer resources: Nearly four in ten survey respondents said this is the greatest priority for creative leaders in the coming year. During lean times, recognition becomes a major motivator. Communicating successes to upper management and providing recognition at staff meetings or via company newsletters ranked among the top ways to recognize employees in the current economy. Not to be underestimated, however, is the power of the in-person thank you: Nearly half of those polled cited this as an effective recognition technique.

Praise must be genuine to be effective, according to Sharon Reiter Lindberg, senior design manager, Unilever.  “I always speak from the heart when I give a compliment,” she said. “I really think recognition and motivation benefit the overall feelings on the team. It is often the little compliments that you relay as a manager, to those key individuals you work with day-to-day, that make a true difference in attitude and self-esteem. I try to consistently enforce that I feel my team is doing a great job through direct recognition.”

Lindberg added that increasing a staff member’s level of responsibility can be motivational, as well: “I try to give them more responsibility and let them handle bigger projects. When I show them that I trust and rely on them, I believe that they take more pride in ownership of projects. That ‘ownership’ and my trust in their abilities is very motivating, I think.”

Let the good times roll

Of course, having a little fun on the job doesn’t hurt. In SAS’s corporate creative department, Steve Benfield, senior creative director at SAS said all you need is a little “SPAM” to motivate the team. Based on a Monty Python skit about the pork product, the award is an acronym that stands for “Special People Achieving Magic.” Anyone on the team can present a SPAM award to anyone else, according to Benfield, who noted that the presentation is part of the fun.

“We have a custom-made SPAM blazer, which is an old blazer from a thrift shop to which we’ve sewn a canned SPAM® emblem on the back,” he said. “The presenter wears that, along with a Viking helmet. We march down the hall, adorned with blazer and helmet, singing the Monty Python SPAM song and gathering group members as we go. When we arrive at the recipient’s office, we present him or her with — yes, you guessed it — a fresh can of SPAM and a gift card to a favorite coffee or ice cream shop. Or we tell the winner to go to lunch or dinner and charge it back to our department.”

Empowering — and not so empowering — ways to motivate

Here’s what several survey respondents had to say about the ways in which their creative leaders did — and did not — empower them to produce their best work:


• “One of the company’s key values is developing our team members. It’s even part of a team member’s yearly objectives to complete 40 hours of structured development. We also will give team members the opportunity to help on projects outside of their area of expertise when workloads permit.”

• “We team up people who will work well together and challenge each other. We pair a young designer with a seasoned art director, for example. The young designer often brings a fresh approach while the art director guides with experience.”

• “We have a professional development allowance which also funds membership dues.”

… and not so empowering

• “Management tends to be hands-off. Innovation and producing one’s best work is left to each employee, so the results vary greatly.”

• “There is very little time at my firm to spend on developing ideas and innovation. Most of the time, the first idea is the idea we go with. There’s also a substantial breakdown in communication between members of the creative team, even when collaborating on the same project.”

•  “My firm doesn’t assess skills accurately: As a senior designer, I was often handling tasks a junior designer would do and vice versa.”