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Forget free lunches and swag: here's what your creative team needs to succeed

5 min read
Aaron Marquis

Picture this: A creative team is in the midst of a crunch, shouldering a mountain of work under an intense deadline. They’re stressed, they’re tired, and they’re trying to do their best work with the resources available. At this critical period when everyone is on edge, a leader walks in and offers them… a tote bag and a panini. 

If this sounds like a misreading of the room, it’s because it is. Yet lunches and swag are often the morale boosting incentives offered to creatives. To get the best from employees working in creative fields, you must rethink your methods of supporting them, and really analyze the ways in which you can improve their happiness. Read below to get incentivizing tips that will transform your creative team.

What we'll cover

When your creatives are happy, then they’ll produce better work

We should be clear from the start: providing incentives like free lunches, swag, and small tokens of appreciation to your creatives isn’t bad or incorrect. However, when these items are the only form of supporting your employees, the focus on their issues can be misplaced. And when recessions or economic slowdowns occur, you may not be able to provide these incentives, which won’t go unnoticed.

To create a bigger, recession-proof impact on your creative employees’ motivation, consider a revamp of their working conditions and processes. Taking a close look at gaps and blockers in the creative process can eliminate work frustrations and clear clouds of stress. 

But where do you start? 

We’ve found that the biggest problems areas for creatives are:

  • Chasing creative feedback. All creatives want is to get feedback on their work so that they can progress forward, but too often they must spend time reminding key stakeholders, and sort through long email threads and slack messages. 
  • Performing project administrative tasks. Status updates, brief creation, work reports, and anything else that takes away from innovative work is a happiness killer. Creatives want to create. Period.
  • Repeating plug-and-play designs and creative work. Creatives want to deliver the best work possible, within project scope, but they also want to be recognized for what they were hired to do: come up with new, innovative design and marketing ideas. If there's no space for trying new ideas from your team because you're trying to meet deadlines for clients or internal stakeholders during times of stress, motivation can drop rapidly. 

Equip creatives with the tools they need to avoid day-to-day frustration

Imagine if Michaelangelo had dull chisels, or Steven Spielberg had only a VHS camera: Do you think they would be happy? They wouldn’t, because tools matter to creatives — whether they’re the tools of creation, or the tools that manage it. When your creative team is equipped with great creative process tools, they’re happier, which leads to not only better work, but higher work output. 

In addition to the value you get from happy employees, there’s a cost you can avoid: the loss of a talented, but annoyed creative who leaves to find a better opportunity. Letting unhappiness simmer due to poor creative processes and tools is almost a guarantee you’ll have attrition.

So increase your “creative capacity” with smart creative tools. You’ll get your creatives doing more creative work, delivering more completed works faster, which pays for itself. This includes a well-connected ecosystem of:

  • Design and marketing creation tools
  • Project management tools that track work-in-progress updates
  • Creative feedback tools that allow for deep collaboration directly on creative assets of all kinds
  • Creative workflow tools that automate review and approval steps
  • Asset management and file storage tools that keep approved content in a clear, organized project structure
  • Project auditing & marketing compliance tools that keep a clear history of all work and assets created

The goal with these tools is to remove as much of the administrative work and ambiguity in the creative process around project and file sharing, status updates, and communicating with stakeholders--which will ultimately free up your team for more creative bandwidth.   

The conditions creatives need—and want—to feel satisfied at their jobs

It’s not a secret what your creative team needs to not only feel fulfilled in their role, but to progress the work and mission of your company. They need similar things to other departments, yet because of the unique nature of their work, the methods and tools must be more tailored. You’ll find that your creatives desire:

Realistic bandwidth and timelines. You may think that giving tight or impossible deadlines will keep a fire lit under your creatives, but if they always have them (and they’re constantly missing them), they’ll soon lose morale and passion. So keep the timelines sensible, and monitor their bandwidth in a constructive way.

Supportive technology tools. Give your creative teams not only the best tools for design and creation, but the best tools for managing that creation. An investment in smart data storage, feedback management, and connectivity is an investment in their happiness and retention.

Room for innovation and experimentation with creative design and marketing strategy. This speaks for itself. Sometimes you must permit your creatives to try new things and roam a bit. Will all of the output be a winner? Probably not. But you’ll keep your team enthusiastic, and you never know what new campaign may arise from just “fooling around.”

Clear and easy collaboration. Don’t make your creatives fight to collaborate. It takes time away from their core job. Create collaboration processes that streamline the process so that it’s an easy (or non existent) lift for them.

When resources are strapped or teams fluctuate, maintaining a motivated creative team can seem challenging. No matter the project conditions, designers and other creatives ultimately want to be recognized and rewarded for their creative talents and know they're being supported with the proper tools and workload balance to see those ideas into production. Sure, work perks are nice--but creative currency still rules the roost when it comes to managing a healthy creative team.

Learn more about managing a creative team here: How to build and manage a more adaptable creative team (especially during economic uncertainty)

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