MOTIVATING CREATIVES – MATCHING APPROPRIATE SKILLS AND ATTITUDES TO THE TASK
How do you raise the profile of an in‐house creative team to the point where they enjoy equal status with other departments and provide a greatly improved service?
This company had caused something of a revolution in its market sector since its arrival on the UK scene some ten years previously. Turning the whole industry on its head, it had not only succeeded in switching the vast majority of customers away from traditional high street shops in favour of an online environment, but had also attracted a whole new breed of customer – younger, smarter, and most significantly, wealthier. Clever branding, a transparent approach and a great deal for the customers, together with the kind of innovation that can only be provided on line, had all contributed to a meteoric rise in fortune for the company which, at the time of our first contact with them, was riding high and looking to world market domination.
WHAT SPARKED THE REQUEST FOR OUR HELP?
Started by a couple of far‐sighted entrepreneurs, the company had grown at a dramatic rate and had retained many of its loyal workforce from the early days of long hours and what was then an uncertain future. Ten years down the line, with large London offices and over 1,000 employees, the directors found themselves with a mix of old and new managers and staff, the latter finding it difficult to operate in an environment where old habits were ingrained and attitudes were hard to shift. By now, competitors had woken up to the challenge of this new way of doing business, and in the spirit of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, had started to invest heavily in their online presence to the point where they were beginning to pose a threat to our client. Suddenly, this ground-breaking new business was starting to look inefficient, and its brand – while strong and consistent – was looking tired in the face of the competition. Their recently appointed commercial manager could see that action was needed, and called us in to help.
OUR SUGGESTED PRACTICE AND METHOD
This situation presented us with an obvious case for our ‘Motivate’ practice. The client felt that certain sectors within the organization were failing to deliver, and that communication between departments was poor. In addition, a number of external suppliers were competing to provide similar services, and it soon became clear that there was a level of dissatisfaction within the in‐house creative team, who felt undervalued. We were specifically asked to investigate this department, looking into its working methods, skill set and relationship with department managers across the organization. As the company operated on a global scale, with offices in other locations in Europe, we extended our research to cover all creative staff, both permanent and freelance. Our aim was to improve their motivation levels by realigning the section managers’ expectations to match what was achievable, all within the constraints of a very fast‐moving and complex creative environment.
Following our initial meeting we were soon introduced to the head of the creative team in the UK office, and we then organized meetings with all members of the creative team. We devised carefully worded questionnaires which the team members, including those working outside the UK, were asked to complete and return to us in complete confidentiality, providing us with details about their levels of experience, job satisfaction, commitment to the company, working relationships with other departments, and more.
At the same time, we arranged meetings with all other department managers, including Accounts and HR, to determine their level of satisfaction with the Creative Department and to assess the general perception of what was required of them within the organization as a whole. We prepared a very different set of questionnaires for the managers, which, when completed, presented a wide variation in levels of expectation and satisfaction. It soon became clear that there was a huge disparity between those who wanted fast turn‐around, ‘template’ design with very little creative input, and those who thought the in‐house team was responsible for brand awareness and ‘big ideas’. As an added complication, some managers were delegating creative work to external suppliers, bypassing the in‐house team completely. This was obviously an incompatible mix, guaranteed to confuse and de‐motivate the creatives.
We prepared a set of proposals for improving levels of motivation within the in‐house creative department, including a certain level of restructuring. We listened to their grievances around poor briefing, inadequate time allocation and ineffective workflow practices, and set about detailing an improvement plan for the directors’ consideration, to be rolled out over a period of 18 months. Within the period of our involvement (around 12 weeks in total), we already began to witness take‐up of several of our proposals, such as regular debriefs from the department manager and ‘break‐out’ sessions in more conducive locations than those of the usual open‐plan office environment.
We continued our conversation with departmental managers across the organization in an effort to arrive at a realistic level of service that they should expect from the in‐house creative team. We also suggested a complete overhaul of the workflow hardware and software to allow much more effective communication between all parties.
A dispirited and undervalued creative department felt the immediate benefit of some special attention and a sympathetic ear. Redistribution of certain tasks left those best qualified to concentrate on jobs appropriate to their particular expertise. The creation of briefing templates and improved workflow relieved some of the time pressures, and a clearer understanding of what could be realistically achieved resulted in a vastly improved relationship with other department managers.
Most significantly a clear line was drawn between day‐to‐day requirements and long‐term branding strategy, which was now seen as vital to the future success of the business and worthy of investment in specialized external suppliers, with whom we instigated early conversations.
With a new CEO in place, the company is now fortified to face the challenges of a more competitive market. He will be able to count on the support of an altogether happier and more productive in‐house creative team in his pursuit of global domination within this highly competitive market sector.