Want to Advance? Personal Contact Trumps Performance, Survey Says

By SHRM Online Jun 27, 2012

Who you know tops job performance when it comes to moving up in an organization, according to a survey of 516 workers in the U.S. and Canada.

The survey by talent and career management experts Right Management was conducted from May 16 through June 15, 2012, and found:

  • 44 percent of respondents think it’s who you know in order to get ahead in their organizations.
  • 39 percent credit job performance.
  • 13 percent don’t know, saying it is never made clear what fosters advancement.
  • 4 percent credit tenure in one’s current position.

“Workplace cynicism sure runs deep when merely one-in-three thinks it is merit that opens up opportunities or influences advancement,” stated Monica Morrow, Right Management’s senior vice president of career management, which provides talent, career and outplacement services for Fortune 500 companies.

“It’s unfortunate so many workers think politics drives promotion,” she said in a news release. “And it’s certainly wrong, too, since organizations are doing more to identify promising talent and shape their development.”

Top management should be concerned, she noted, that some respondents reported there was no clear criteria for advancement within their organizations.

Combing the 44 percent of those who think business politics propels one’s career and the 13 percent who don’t know what it takes to get ahead, “we get [nearly] 60 percent who aren’t plugged in to what ought to be open and fair development options,” she observed. “No wonder employers so often find their people so unsatisfied or disengaged from their work.”

Morrow offered the following tips to employees looking to get ahead:

  • Identify personal strengths and seek out managers for constructive career discussions.
  • Link those strengths to the organization’s business needs, clarify how they support the organization’s priorities, and identify opportunities for ways those strengths can benefit the organization.
  • Look for opportunities to grow and learn, such as volunteering for a special project, and apply those opportunities in a way that helps managers address business priorities.

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