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Should I stay, or should I go?

Top-of-mind this time of year for many young business professionals considering higher education (I.e. an MBA) is the choice of whether to stay at their current employer for another year (or a few), or to go back to school. Some of the private equity and consulting firms we partner with have extended ways for high-performing employees to remain with the company even after they would typically be expected to leave. The compensation offered is often significantly higher than average post-MBA salaries and include expanded responsibilities. These roles are difficult to turn down.

As with anyone facing career choices, a professional’s optimal decision depends on their priorities. Some of our clients come from humble backgrounds, and thus several hundred thousand dollars a year represents a form of generational wealth that they feel a responsibility to develop. Others view that extra compensation as seed capital for passions they want to pursue post-MBA (travel, social enterprise, gift, etc.). Others leave their firm regardless of what is offered, prioritizing the extra time to pursue their longer-run career goals, and their anticipated enjoyment of that journey.

The biggest blind spot our clients continue facing is in identifying what their priorities actually are. Most of them have a sense of what they like and dislike about their current and prior jobs, but have struggled to assess a choice objectively. Do they really not care about compensation, or is it because they are already earning more than they could spend? Is work/life balance something they are really willing to forgo, or would that suddenly change once they have kids, or a loved one got sick, or they got sick? Ironically, the more options elite candidates have, the more many of them struggle with their choices.

Tools like ProValues and Strengthsfinder can help people facing these choices better prioritize what will lead to long-term career satisfaction. For instance, a recent ProValues presentation at Yale revealed that while “high salary” ranked in the top 8 of users’ Values, 80% of what users valued was outside of “Compensation and Rewards”. We found similar results during a presentation at Wharton. Giving a group like this more financial compensation would likely be less effective (and more expensive) than making team members feel more valued (even just saying “thank you” from time to time), or giving team members more ownership of work outcomes to increase the intellectual stimulation of the work itself. However, if your team is more like a consulting firm we recently advised, where “Compensation and Rewards” was over 40% of what team members valued, then you may need to pay top performers more to retain them. Knowing the priorities of your team is a critical step to improving their satisfaction, effectiveness, and productivity.

In some cases, an absence of that knowledge can cause costly distractions. One of our startup clients recently navigated a situation where a senior executive at their company confessed to behavior well outside the stated culture of the company. This caused significant friction within the team (several people who were essential to the company publicly declared that they were with the company mainly because of strong values on the leadership team), leading senior executives to scramble to retain key people. Conversely, another startup team that knew the primary importance of cohesion on their team minimized disruptions from layoffs through an offer of temporary pay reductions. Insights into what teams value helped them make better decisions.

As 2023 offers continued challenges and opportunities, we’re excited to keep working with teams across educational institutions, companies, and non-profits to help them discover what people on their teams value. Not only can we use ProValues to diagnose what your team values, but our analytics can help compare teams to others we’ve worked with to provide further insights on how to boost productivity and satisfaction while optimizing for cost. Pricing starts at $30/user, with corporate seminars available offering customized analytics and interactive workshops for your team.

If you’re interested in learning how ProValues can strengthen your team, let us know.

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