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A New Survey Reveals That Money Isn’t Everything

The findings suggest that workers crave guidance on how to improve.
By: | January 16, 2019 • 2 min read
Portrait fragment of Benjamin Franklin close-up from one hundred dollars bill

What’s more important to professional-level workers these days, money or recognition?

They are split on that question, judging from a recent Korn Ferry survey.

When asked which they’d prefer—a promotion with no salary increase or a salary increase with no promotion—most survey respondents went, not surprisingly, for the money. But not by much: 55 percent said they’d take just a salary increase, while 45 percent said they’d prefer just the promotion.

The high number of people who’d prefer a promotion over a salary increase shouldn’t come as a big surprise, says Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global head of leadership development solutions.

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“Appropriate compensation is key to a professional’s job satisfaction, but at least as important is recognition for a job well done,” he says.

Recognition in the form of a promotion can be hard to come by, unfortunately. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of respondents who said they didn’t receive a promotion during the previous 12 months cited “bottleneck or nowhere to go” as the main reason. The second-most common reason? “Office politics,” cited by 17 percent of survey respondents.

The adage “Ask and ye shall receive” apparently doesn’t resonate with many people, with 50 percent of respondents saying they will not ask for a promotion this year. However, plenty of the respondents acknowledge they may not be ready for greater responsibilities, with one third (28 percent) of the 50 percent who said they don’t plan to ask for a promotion citing this as a reason. Fifteen percent said they’re afraid and don’t know how to ask.

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Employees are eager to learn how they can improve their performance, the survey finds. Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) cited “identify the reasons and work to improve” as their response if they were passed over for promotion. However, 31 percent said they’d look for a new job as either an active or passive job seeker.

“The key to job progression is ongoing development and coaching to ensure professionals are receiving feedback in terms of how they are doing in their current role and what they need to do to be ready to take on added responsibility,” says Baltzley. “And even if an employee is not yet ready for the next role, knowing that there is potential for a promotion to a more challenging role is an excellent way to retain top talent.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine is senior editor at Human Resource Executive®. A Penn State graduate, Andy also spent two years in the U.S. Army prior to attending college and attained the rank of sergeant while serving in the Army Reserves. He can be reached at [email protected]

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