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Build Your Career Get Ahead

To Keep Employees Motivated, Give Them a Better Title

Credit: Fizkes/Shutterstock

Moving up the corporate ladder means more to many employees than getting a bigger paycheck, new research finds.

A study from the people and organizational advisory firm Korn Ferry revealed that 63 percent of employees would prefer to get a promotion with no raise than a salary increase with no promotion.

Dennis Baltzley, a Korn Ferry senior partner and the firm's global head of leadership development, said employers should take this finding into consideration if they want to hold on to their top workers.

"Study after study shows the incredible importance of recognition for one's contribution [and that it] is a key driver in job satisfaction, while salary is rarely near the top," Baltzley said in a statement. "To retain the best and the brightest, organizational leaders need to put development and clear career-pathing plans in place, not just for top leaders but [also] for those across the organization."

The good news for employees is that many are, or will be shortly, getting that promotion they desire. The research found that 39 percent of workers received a promotion over the past year, with 45 percent expecting one within the next 12 months. [See Related Story: Want a Promotion? Mind Your Manners]

The biggest problem for those who haven't moved up the corporate ladder, the research found, is that employers aren't doing a good enough job of creating advancement opportunities. The study found that 56 percent of those surveyed who hadn't received a promotion within the last year said the main reason was because of a "bottleneck or nowhere to go" within the company's hierarchy. In addition, nearly 20 percent of respondents said office politics got in their way when trying to move up the ladder.

If they were passed over for a larger role within their organization, 84 percent of those surveyed said their first steps would be to figure out the reasons they didn't get the promotion and then work to improve in those areas.

The study showed that when they want a promotion, nearly 90 percent of employees first have a discussion with their bosses to identify growth areas that would enable the individuals to move into the next role.

"The last thing any boss wants is to have an employee demand a promotion or lament that they were not chosen for a role," said Peter Keseric, a managing consultant at Korn Ferry Futurestep. "Conversations should start early on and include details on the exact key performance indicators (KPIs) that need to be achieved to earn a promotion, and there should be regular meetings to ensure progress is being made."

Overall, 38 percent of those surveyed said they expect to be in a position for two to three years before being promoted, with 33 percent saying it should take anywhere from three to five years.

"The key is ongoing development and feedback to ensure the professional is ready to take on added responsibility in a role," Baltzley said. "And, as this survey shows, knowing that a promotion is a possibility is an excellent way to retain top talent."

The study was based on surveys of 1,200 professionals from around the world. 

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.