Be creative in motivating staff and winning loyalty

This week’s Design Week is likely to be one of the most thumbed through issues of the year. While consultancy bosses rush to see how their groups have fared in our two top polls, the Top 100, last published in June, and the Creative Survey, due out in November, their staff eagerly await the results of our annual salary survey to see how much they can reasonably expect to earn (see feature, page 18).

Not surprisingly, there’s been little movement in salary levels over the past 12 months, with a 4 per cent year-on-year increase being the best most creatives working in London can expect. Ironically, we publish these findings in an issue that contains the best spread of recruitment ads for well over a year.

The shock for many will be the news that pay is rising at a higher rate outside the capital, where competition for jobs is highest. But wherever you work in the UK, the healthiest positions in design – from a pay perspective – appear to be sales executive and project manager.

What is surprising is that pay levels haven’t actually fallen, given the downturn in design workloads over recent months. Management experts such as Willott Kingston Smith accountant Amanda Merron and Ticegroup chairman Ian Cochrane have been warning consultancies about overly high staffing costs for a couple of years and many groups have subsequently reduced staff numbers significantly.

Of course, there is always a shortage of top talent, even when the number of applicants you can expect for any job is at a high, and consultancy heads have to be prepared to pay to get the best. But gone are the days of the super salaries that we saw in design at the turn of the century, particularly in digital design.

Salaries are, though, increasingly only a part of an acceptable remuneration package, which is why this year we highlight other perks (see feature, page 22). While everyone has rent to pay, there are ways other than cash to motivate staff and ensure their loyalty, especially at the top end of the scale.

Sir Martin Sorrell is among those in favour of ‘flexible’ remuneration deals, while others advocate more flexible working hours. I would argue that performance-related bonuses, above a cost of living increase, are a good way of rewarding merit. They entail a feelgood factor, and setting out shared objectives to be met to earn it instils the idea of measuring effectiveness – a good thing for anyone in design.

However, the key is to offer the right pay for the job and to consider other perks as an add-on. A combination of the two is likely to keep staff motivated and secure and, as everyone in design knows, you’re only as good as your people.

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