Because of how most design and architecture firms are structured, professionals are rarely paid through traditional performance incentives. Yet, performance incentives are a proven way to increase productivity, work quality, and job satisfaction. The design and architecture field can be intense, so incentives can be particularly helpful in this field. The hours are long, the deadlines are tight, and much of the work happens behind the scenes. Many design firms are finding creative ways to increase engagement and improve retention by offering performance incentives. Here are few ways to incentivize performance to improve engagement in the design and architecture field.

Design Freedom

Many creative professionals are drawn to architecture because they see it as an opportunity for creativity, innovation, and self-expression in the real world. Thus, one of the best ways to motivate them is to give them more autonomy; autonomy around design, autonomy around their projects, etc. Architects do not want to just implement other people’s ideas; the freedom to design and bring their own ideas to life is a key part of the architect’s motivation. Giving employees more design freedom (as much as a firm can) improves engagement by giving them more responsibility within the project, an opportunity to grow and ownership over their job.

Prestigious Projects

Architects are about legacy! Each one, admit it or not, wants to be part of designing the next great architectural achievement. Giving top performers prestigious projects is an excellent motivator. One of the most attractive parts of being an architect is that designs come to life and endure for generations. Many architects will work extra hard for a chance to work on a high-profile project that will help them build their reputation and portfolio.


Another way to motivate employees is to give top performers the opportunity to lead. This could be a project, a small team, or even a marketing presentation. Leadership and responsibility are the goals of many design professionals. They will respond positively given the chance to lead a team. It will also help them advance in their leadership skills which benefits the firm and creates an engaged, long term employee.

Bonuses Based on Performance

Money is always a useful incentive. Giving employees bonuses for demonstrating outstanding performance will motivate them to continue working their hardest. Many young professionals are also at the stage of their lives where they are putting down roots, so the extra earnings will definitely make a difference and drive an employee to be and do their best.

Part Ownership in the Firm

Becoming part owner in a firm is a great performance incentive for many architecture and design professionals. Not all firms are able to offer this incentive but if you are, you can reap the rewards of giving your top performers room to grown and achieve. This won’t appeal to everyone; the golden handcuffs could be a deterrent for some, but others will find this to be an excellent opportunity. Just make sure you have a clear plan regarding what is and what is not part of “ownership.” The devil is in the details here.

Although the nature of architectural work makes it harder to implement performance incentives, firms who get creative in their approach to keeping architects and designers engaged and happy in their position will win the day and keep the talent.


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