Advancement Trumps Compensation

Forget everything you’ve heard about employees valuing raises above all else. It turns out most workers actually prize opportunities for advancement over greater compensation. 

A recent survey by Right Management, a subsidiary of ManPowerGroup, found that job seekers’ number one priority is the opportunity for advancement. When asked, “What is your highest priority in your next position?,” 27 percent of respondents cited a greater opportunity for advancement. Other responses included better management team (21 percent); more flexible work environment (21 percent); better compensation (17 percent); and less work pressure (14 percent). 

This is not a new trend. A survey conducted a decade ago byTMPWorldwide Inc. found that advancement opportunities were considered the greatest driver of employee satisfaction even then. From entry level to the management ranks, advancement opportunities trumped everything else. Interestingly, female respondents were more likely to cite advancement opportunities. (So much for men being more determined to climb the corporate ladder!) Men still considered a competitive salary to be a job’s most important attribute. 

Michael Haid, Right Management’s senior vice president for talent management, says his company’s findings mean that employees recognize that raises and bonuses may be few and far between in the current economy and that workers are willing to accept other recognition for their efforts. Afraid to jump ship, they feel trapped and cling to their current jobs, negatively impacting engagement. All the while, they long for opportunities, even within the same organization. 

Savvy employers will interpret the results as a signal that more attention should be paid to career pathing. It can also be beneficial to shuffle work teams, engage in cross-team training, and vary employees’ responsibilities. You may wish to use the annual review process to open a dialogue about growth and advancement opportunities. 

Whatever you do, endeavor to demonstrate a strong commitment to career development and counter the pervasive sense of career stagnation that can set in during economic tough times. Even as the economy remains shaky, those workers who don’t see a clear career path will be less likely to go above and beyond and give their all to the organization. 

As the recovery progresses and hiring picks up again, your best workers are more likely to jump ship if they don’t see opportunities to advance where they are currently. So take advantage of these findings and identify ways you can help your workers to advance within the organization. It won’t cost you much and it will go a lot further than raises in terms of engaging the workforce.

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