What is needed to take on a new job? Research by CEMS looks at the top pull factors

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One of the tough life decisions people take is accepting a job. Whether you’re a fresh grad excited to land the perfect first job, or someone in transition or looking for their next move, deciding if this job is right for you calls for thorough thinking. After all, this is where you will spend at least one third of your day; it will determine your spending patterns, lifestyle, and influence your life experience, your wellbeing and your family. So, what is it that professionals look for in a job?

In a recent survey by CEMS, the Global Alliance in Management Education (formed between leading business schools, multinationals, and non-profits) 4,206 professionals from 75 countries, were asked to select their top criteria when seeking a new role. The respondents were choosing from among 12 criteria namely: Salary/financial package, opportunities for global travel, work-life balance, opportunities for quick career progression, structured support for career acceleration, strong diversity policies, strong corporate responsibility and sustainability track record, inspirational leadership, working for a well-known brand, room for innovation, being able to have an impact at an early stage, feasibility of taking more than two weeks holiday at a time. The results, collected during Fall 2021, revealed that both a good salary and work-life balance were the two most selected and equally important factors for respondents, mostly knowledge workers.

“It is important that organizations listen carefully to what professionals most desire from roles and act on this. This way, they can attract the most talented staff, benefit from the ambition of their people, encourage innovation and ultimately gain competitive advantage in an uncertain age,” commented Nicole de Fontaines, Executive Director of CEMS on the survey results. CEMS works with the finest academic institutions, corporates and social partners to develop a Master’s in Management program that prepares responsible leaders contributing to a more open, sustainable and inclusive world.

While salary is typically and understandably the strongest pull factor to a job, other factors – primarily work-life balance- are becoming increasingly important across different age groups. 20 percent of respondents between 19 and 35 years old responded that salary is the most important factor in a job compared to 19 percent who chose work-life balance, indicating that both factors are of almost equal value.

In the older age group, professionals slightly preferred a good work-life to salary, with 22 percent of respondents over 35 years regarding it as the most important pull factor in a job compared to 19 percent who chose salary.

Even when looking with a gender lens, the results were similar; with 22 percent of males and 19 percent of females prioritizing salary, and 20 percent of males and 21 percent of females prioritizing work-life balance.

“Salary will always be an incentive. The hybrid model to alternate between working from the office and from home is definitely an added value, along with the salary and other benefits like educational benefits for the employee and dependents,” says Sherine Shahin, head of corporate affairs for the Middle East and Africa in Tetra Pak. “Also, having a clear and suitable career progression plan for females is important and sometimes overlooked,” Shahin adds, speaking from her corporate experience, “In many cases the next step for someone in a leadership position is to move abroad, which is often not feasible for a female with a husband and kids who will have to relocate with her. This is an area that is yet to be tackled.”

As the BBC writes, perks such as a positive work culture that supports work-life balance, or flexible working hours and location are becoming common expectations by employees and less of unique offerings. The experiment of working from home during the pandemic pushed this trajectory further. Once these perks become mainstream, the emphasis on salary as an attraction point in a new job will be higher, especially amidst the current economic challenges.

“While both [work-life balance and salary] are equally important, with the recession the world is currently facing, more and more employees will be speaking about the financial aspect. Most leadership teams now are discussing salary adjustments,” says Shahin.

Yet, we all also know there is even more to work than a salary and the ability of having life outside the office. In the same CEMS survey, respondents also indicated that quick career progression and the chance to make an impact came as the third and fourth most influential factors affecting professionals when applying for a job. Priorities shift as we move further into our life journeys and careers. For the younger respondents (19 – 35), opportunities for global travel ranked high on their top criteria in a job, while it came lower down for older respondents.

For Noura Abdelwahab, a senior gender consultant in a USAID-funded project called Egypt TRADE, the chance to make an impact through her job, and to be able to spend sufficient quality time with her family, come before salary when considering a job. While travel opportunities were among her top five attracting factors, she shares her discomfort with long travel assignments that entail being a away from her family.

The world of work has massively changed since the emergence of the nine-to-five work week as we’ve always known it. Communication technology has allowed for numerous different modes of working. Both younger and older generations are claiming their right to ample time outside the office, almost regardless of their gender, while also being able to see an impact of the work they’re doing, and progress in their career. Employers who are attentive and responsive to these changing calculations in job considerations will be better at attracting and retaining talent in such challenging times.

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