I read recently about a Right Management (ManpowerGroup) survey on workers’ perceptions about the most important factor in advancement within their organizations.  The survey involved 500 North American employees and the results were diverse and interesting.

The answer given by 44% was, “who you know  I see good and bad in this one.  Some employees might have the perception that certain people are promoted purely based on relationships.  On the other hand, making yourself known is implicit to the networking strategy.  Networking or “playing politics” as some might call it is not intrinsically evil.  Networking is the smart person’s way of being a valued contributor.  Whatever other positive benefits might accrue are simply built into the formula.

Running a close second at 39% was, “job performance  This makes sense for all the obvious reasons.  If you do your current job well, then by definition you position yourself as a viable candidate for new opportunities.  Your current track record is a strong predictor of your future one.

Third place at 13% was, “don’t know as it’s never made clear  My response to this is thankfully it is only 13%, but 13% is still way too high!  If an organization is doing that bad of a job with succession planning and employee professional development, then that is very sad.  That organization likely has many other problems too.  I just cannot imagine going into work each day with the awareness, “I just don’t know what I have to do to get ahead around here!”  Can you?

Finally, coming in fourth place at just 4% was, “tenure in current position  I suppose this means some people still believe loyalty is blindly rewarded.  That said, “paying your dues” might still be the ticket to promotion in some organizations.  Fortunately, as the numbers suggest, they are few and far between.  Tenure is not a bad thing, but tenure without success means very little in my book.

We can argue how accurately these employees’ perceptions reflect reality, but I do think they uncover some important truths.  My takeaways from the survey are these:

1—Be a smart networker while continuously improving your job performance.

2—Never assume tenure guarantees you advancement.

3—Finally, if you don’t know what you need to do to gain promotions, then start asking.  And if you don’t like what you learn, then find another organization in which to get promoted.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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