Few Employees Define Work Success as High Performance

HR & Safety

Disconnect between employee aspirations and employer goals

A recent global career survey of employees by Right Management, finds that only 10% of employees define career success as high performance and productivity. As employers struggle to find skilled and motivated individuals to meet performance goals, these findings indicate an ongoing disconnect between employee aspirations and the performance demands of employers worldwide.

“High performers have a disproportionate impact on business results,” said Mara Swan, global leader of Right Management and executive vice president of ManpowerGroup. “Talent shortages for in-demand skills persist and have caused HR departments worldwide to rethink how they develop and motivate individuals to meet performance goals. To attract and retain top talent, organizations must make development a priority and enable their leaders to mentor employees to expand their skills, capabilities and experience.”

The survey also found that 45% of respondents rank work/life balance as their number one career aspiration, and the top definition of workplace success is enjoyment/happiness.

“People are happy and engaged at work when they are inspired,” said Swan. “Understanding employee career motivations and aspirations is key to creating a high performance culture that motivates individuals to do their best work. When individuals experience effective career development through ongoing career conversations with their managers, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated and ready to take on new challenges.”

Additional Findings

  • Employees rank work/life balance higher than performance: 45% of employees aspire to achieve work/life balance, which is more than double the number of employees that rank being the best at what they do (17%) as their top career aspiration. In Europe, 55% of employees aspire for work/life balance, followed by Asia Pacific (37%) and North America (35%). Interestingly, Millennials (14%) are least likely to aspire to be the best at what they do compared to Baby Boomers (22%) and Gen X (17%). Only 3% of employees globally aspire to achieve a prominent position.
  • When it comes to success, enjoyment/happiness at work trumps performance and salary: 26% of employees define success in the workplace as enjoyment/happiness, followed by salary (19%), doing the best work (18%), respect and recognition (15%), and high performance (10%). Broken out by geography, high performance ranks lowest in Europe (8%) and highest in Asia (14%) and with 12% in North America. Across generations, defining workplace success as high performance is reported evenly by Millennials (10%), Gen X (11%) and Baby Boomers (8%).
  • Leaders need to show respect: 53% of employees say respect for their knowledge and experience is their top expectation of leadership. Others include mutual trust (51%), transparency (37%), learning and development (32%), and a relationship of equals regardless of job title (30%). In Europe, mutual trust is the top expectation of leadership. The expectation for learning and development opportunities ranks highest in Asia (34%), followed by Europe (32%) and North America (29%).
  • Mutual trust is expected of colleagues: 59% of employees want mutual trust from their colleagues at work, followed by respect for their knowledge (48%), a relationship of equals (46%), and transparency (41%). In North America, respect for my knowledge ranks as the number one expectation of peers in the workplace (54%). In Europe, 67% of employees expect mutual trust from colleagues, which represents the highest response percentage in the survey. Baby Boomers worldwide expect mutual trust (65%) from their colleagues, compared with Gen X (61%) and Millennials (51%).
  • Employees will leave for work/life balance and higher pay: The top motivations for changing jobs are the desire for work/life balance and higher compensation (both 35%), followed by seeking a different work culture and wanting more challenging assignments (both 25%). In Asia, 54% of employees are motivated to change jobs for better work/life balance, followed by 41% in North America and 24% in Europe.

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