Hiring creatives and engineers? Understand the soft incentives

A study by Princeton University scholars Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton has shown that the quality of an individual's everyday experience is not impacted much beyond an annual income of approximately $75,000. This is probably doubly true of creative and engineering talent. To motivate these people to come and work for you, rather than another employer generally requires one or more of the following incentives:

Challenge: The best talent likes to be challenged. They would much rather work around the clock to design a unique user experience or develop an innovative app than a meaningless app which doesn’t extend their skills or challenge their faculties. For a case in point, compare the challenge posed to the Ikea team that built out their 2014 catalog, which leverages augmented reality to give a virtual preview of furniture in a room, to the numerous other catalog apps that litter iTunes and Google Play.

Collaboration: Yes, the best talent can sometimes be difficult to collaborate with, but that’s usually if they are forced to collaborate with team members that are not on par with their own abilities or they are posed with a task that's too trivial for a top notch team to pursue. Put them in a high performing team and ask them to collaborate on a seemingly insurmountable challenge, and this can quickly change. Picture the team that worked together to make this happen: 

Credit: GQ 

Credit: GQ 

Recognition The best talent likes to be appreciated and recognized for their work, and not just in the context of their own team or department but amongst their peers as well. Find a way to build incentive models where their work is recognized beyond the walls of your company, and by their peers across the industry. Some ways of doing this include:

  • sponsoring creative and technical team members to present in industry and peer conferences
  • permitting designers to showcase select work assets on platforms like Dribbble and Behance
  • encouraging developers to contribute appropriate code to various open source communities via. GitHub

Work environment: Build a work environment that suits your team. Some seemingly trivial items that matter to creative and engineering talent include:

  • dress code - in general creative talent likes to express itself, and technical talent just wants to feel comfortable
  • work time - A Tayloristic 9:00 to 5:00 workday, while potentially great for regimented factory work, doesn't hold the same effectiveness with top talent
  • office layout - cubicle hell can be as uninspiring as a rigid 9:00 to 5:00 schedule
  •  work location - unless you are in all hands on deck turnaround type situation, or you're trying to meet a very tight launch deadline, give talent options here 

The world of work is changing tremendously, and creative and engineering talent today have more options than they have arguably ever had. Options that only a couple of decade ago were considered fringe options at best (e.g., freelancing, working at a startup, being an indie app developer, etc.) are today considered viable alternatives to working a soulless job. Make sure that the job you are offering inspires talent to pursue their best work at work, and doesn't simply become a pay check that finances a much more meaningful side-gig.