Reward from within Design Organizations

by Luke Wroblewski August 25, 2005

Most corporations employ a consistent top-down reward structure where recognition comes in the form of a bonus from management. While this approach may work for most groups within a company, it may be less effective within design departments.

Creative class members (those who add economic value through their creativity) are unlikely to be motivated by recognition for their timely completion of rote tasks. They prefer recognition for their ability to solve challenging problems. And if that recognition comes from respected peers –all the better.

“Creative people have always been motivated by the respect of their peers.” –Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class

In order to tap into this natural motivational channel, design organizations should consider distributing a portion of their reward structure and process to employees. For example, each term (most likely a quarter) every employee could be given a set amount of compensation (bonus money, stock options, gift certificates, etc.) to award a peer they feel is deserving of praise. Designers could award this compensation to other designers (or managers) that helped them with a project, contributed to their personal growth, or simply provided inspiration.

This form of peer recognition would benefit those who give recognition as well as those who receive it. Determining whom to reward and why is a great means for analyzing and appreciating the contributions made by peers and, as a result, helps build stronger teams.