The latest chapter in the ongoing book on employees and what they really want from their employer finds them pursuing a slightly different Holy Grail than previously reported: challenge.
In a recent global Korn Ferry survey of nearly 2,000 professionals, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) say that if they were to plan on being in the job market this year, it would be because they’re looking for a more challenging position while the quest for greater compensation comes in almost dead last as a reason to leave.
Trailing far behind that 73 percent, 9 percent say they would be looking elsewhere because they either don’t like their company or their efforts aren’t being recognized, 5 percent would blame the fact that their compensation is too low and 4 percent say it would be because they don’t like their boss.
“What that answer tells HR is if people are thinking of moving for challenge, how do we challenge them?” says Kevin Cashman, senior partner at Los Angeles-based Korn Ferry. “It presents a call to invest in more engagement, challenge, stretching, coaching and developing. That’s what you’re competing with, [employees who are] looking for challenge, and growth and development, especially the high-potentials. HR and managers need to be aware of this and [either set up or] have engagement programs in place.
“These results mirror study after study Korn Ferry has done [including one HREOnline? reported on in January] that show money is not the key motivator for employees,” Cashman says. “Professionals who have progressed in their careers have done so for a reason. They’re passionate about what they do and need to feel that they are being pushed professionally and continually learning new skills.
Sandra McLellan, the Toronto-based North America practice leader for rewards at Willis Towers Watson, however, sees the latest Holy Grail of challenge as more integrated into everything an employee is seeking.
“That notion that people will trade off, [preferring] a promotion over a pay increase [which the earlier Korn Ferry study mentioned above found], I just think it’s more complicated than that,” McLellan says. “A lot of times, the promotion comes with a pay increase,” and the worker is certainly seeking both.
Even challenging assignments are craved for, especially by high-potentials, because of the full package, she says; i.e., what they bring in terms of new skills, advancement, career development and, yes, pay.
“Many of our future leaders may be craving [challenge],” McLellan says, “however, in designing career paths, it may be more important for the success of the organization to have those challenging assignments, but . . . know many of these people actually want more traditional, incremental development, not necessarily huge challenges.
“Remember,” she adds, “career development means different things to different people” and, many times, what employees are really craving, especially the top-talented ones, is an ever-growing bank of marketable skills they can take with them into the outside world.
“So here’s my challenge that I put to organizations: How do you create an environment that will replicate the outside world of skills-building? How can you create these challenging assignments within your cultures that better replicate that outside world they’ll find when they leave?”
And there’s nothing wrong with building people’s skills for success outside your doors, McLellan adds. Facilitating growth in such a way, she says, “helps build up the organization and keeps pace with how work is changing, but every employer needs to decide what kind of organization it wants to be and how it will create this culture.”
And given the right environment, “it’s also up to employees to talk about where their aspirations lie and where they can get the right experiences within the organization.”
Her company’s recent survey, the Willis Towers Watson 2016 Global Workforce Study, based on responses from 3,105 U.S. employees, finds they would like their employers to do better jobs at providing substantive career management. Highlights from that study include:
* Only 41 percent of employees think their employer does a good job of providing advancement opportunities or promotions;
* Barely half (52 percent) say their organization does a good job of providing opportunities for personal development, such as challenging project assignments;
*Only 41 percent say their employer offers career-planning tools and resources such as coaching, self-assessment and career paths;
* Less than one in three employees (32 percent) say their immediate supervisor or manager helps them with career planning and decisions; and
* Almost half (47 percent) think they would have to leave their employer and join another company to advance to a higher job level. Additionally, a comparable number of high-potential employees say they would need to leave their employer to advance their career.
Which ties right into what Korn Ferry has found, says Cashman.
” ‘Challenge’ is a word for accelerating,” he says. “In general, people are looking for ways to grow and be challenged, but they’re also human and thinking of their individual gains in career development and marketability in the global marketplace, not just their corporation.”