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You Can’t Learn Everything You Need to Know from Data Found on the Internet


You Can't Learn Everything You Need to Know from Data Found on the Internet

Alternative Facts—Workforce Survey Style

My head is spinning reading results of competing surveys from reputable organizations contradicting each other! One of the latest instances pertains to surveys of workforce attitudes by Korn Ferry, Willis Towers Watson and Manpower Group – specifically on what is more important to workers: compensation increases or promotion; why people leave or are looking to leave their jobs; and attitude toward their employers.

Korn Ferry found that compensation ranked near the bottom of motivating factors while Willis Towers Watson’s survey revealed compensation increases to be a top attraction and desire. And the barriers to achieving the worker’s desired objectives differed too. Both companies claimed to have surveyed approximately 1,000 to 2,000 professionals in roughly the same time period.

Korn Ferry’s study found that 73% of respondents said that if they plan to look around for other opportunities this year, it would be for a more challenging position, with increased compensation being of negligible importance to their decision to leave. And the majority would prefer to get a promotion with no salary increase over a raise in salary with no promotion. A senior Korn Ferry executive said the generations were in agreement: Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer professionals ranked compensation near the bottom of what motivates employees.

Another recent survey – this one by Manpower Group – of 19,000 Millennials countered the results above with 23% saying “earning a lot of money is their top priority.” Making a positive contribution came in second (21%); 19% named “working with great people.”

So what are we to think? Here’s my commentary.

Among possible reasons for differing conclusions might be: the survey questions were worded differently; or there was a different balance of generations/ages among respondents, or there were differences in how the surveys segmented the age cohorts; or respondents were not being candid. We don’t know.

These are not “alternate facts” emanating from the White House, but rather research from credible organizations on these topics. To me it reiterates my belief (and book title) – You Can’t Google It! – that is, you can’t learn everything you need to know from data found on the Internet.

My cautions to generational specialists and others speaking and writing about such surveys or using them to formulate policy are:

  • Don’t speak in absolutes about the data you find in surveys and polls.
  • Survey and/or listen to your own target group as well as considering the patterns revealed in outside surveys.
  • Recognize that economic conditions and other influential circumstances can change stated attitudes and behaviors in just a few years or months, perhaps temporarily, perhaps long term.
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