May 13, 2002

A challenging year has had a varied effect on morale within the creative industry, a new survey shows. Thirty-eight percent of advertising and marketing executives polled said morale at their companies has declined from one year ago. But almost as many, 35 percent, said the mood has improved. Just over a quarter, 27 percent, have seen no change.

The survey was developed by The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service that provides marketing, advertising, creative and web professionals on a project basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes 250 responses -- 125 from advertising executives among the nation's 1,000 largest advertising agencies and 125 from senior marketing executives among the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, "How would you rate employee morale at your firm compared to one year ago?" Their responses:

Much higher 8%
Somewhat higher 27%
The same 27%
Somewhat lower 29%
Much lower 9%

"Keeping the work environment positive amid a slow economy and increased unemployment has been no small task for managers," said Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group. "However, difficult circumstances can sometimes bring employees together. Firms that show consideration to staff members during uncertain times can instill greater loyalty over the long term."

Turner offers the following advice for keeping staff spirits up:

-- Increase face time with employees. Try to spend at least a few minutes each week talking individually with direct reports, and make sure they feel comfortable approaching you with questions and ideas.

-- Acknowledge hard work. Remember that layoffs can be difficult for remaining staff members who often must accomplish more with fewer resources. If an employee has assumed increased responsibility without a pay adjustment, let that person know his or her efforts have not gone unnoticed. If you're unable to offer a raise, consider alternatives such as a change in job title or a spot bonus.

-- Invest in employee development. Look for ways to help your team grow professionally. Offer them challenging and diverse projects, enter their work in competitions and provide continuing education opportunities.

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