Building Great Places to Work

September 18. 2013

Top 10 Attributes Most Important to Top Performers

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September 18. 2013

Each organization that applied for the NorthCoast 99 award was required to choose between 10 and 50 top performing employees (depending on the size of their organization) to complete the Top Performer Engagement Survey. A total of 4,280 top performers participated in the survey.

Within the survey, top performers were asked to select the top five most important job attributes that they look for in a job, with “1” being the most important. They selected from a list of 19 job attributes. The percentage of rankings top performers selected as the #1 most important attribute are noted below.

Challenging and meaningful work was ranked as the number one most important job attribute among all top performers. Compensation, job security, work/life balance, and benefits were also ranked among the top five #1 most important job attributes.

  1. Challenging/Meaningful Work (20%)
  2. Compensation (16%)
  3. Job Security (13%)
  4. Work/Life Balance (10%)
  5. Benefits (7%)
  6. Career Development (6%)
  7. Leadership (6%)
  8. Advancement (6%)
  9. Autonomy (6%)
  10. Product/Service Quality (3%)

Additionally, in our analysis of what top performers are seeking in a job, we found a variety of differences based on gender, age, full-time/part-time, education, and job responsibilities. 

Gender

  • Female top performers tended to rank challenging/meaningful work with more importance than compensation and job security, which were ranked slightly more important by male top performers.
  • Work/life balance and benefits appeared to be somewhat more important to female top performers.
  • Male top performers perceived career development and advancement as somewhat more important than female top performers, and more important than work/life balance and benefits.

Age

  • Younger top performers (age 18-30) placed more importance on career development and advancement than older top performers.
  • Top performers age 31-40 ranked compensation, challenging and meaningful work, work/life balance, and job security as the most important job attributes they seek in jobs.
  • Top performers age 41-50 ranked the attributes similarly to top performers age 31-40, but work/life balance tended to drop off in importance with this age bracket when compared to younger top performers. 
  • Older top performers (age 51+) place the most importance on challenging/meaningful work and also perceive benefits, autonomy, and leadership to be more important than younger top performers.

Full-Time/Part-Time

  • Full-time top performers rank challenging and meaningful work, compensation, job security, and career development as more important than part-time top performers.
  • Part-time top performers rank work/life balance as the number one most important attribute they seek in a job, followed by challenging and meaningful work.
  • Autonomy was viewed as more important among part-time top performers than among full-time top performers.

Education

  • Top performers with less education rank job security as the most important attribute that they seek in jobs.
  • For top performers with a Bachelor's degree or higher, challenging and meaningful work is the #1 attribute they seek in a job, followed by compensation, work/life balance, and job security. Career development and advancement were also important to these top performers.
  • Top performers with graduate or professional degrees viewed challenging and meaningful work as more important than top performers with less education and also viewed autonomy and work/life balance as more important.

Job Responsibilities

  • Across the majority of jobs, top performers rank challenging and meaningful work as the most important attribute that they seek in jobs.
  • Job security was most important to top performers in production, transportation, and material moving jobs, and more important to top performers in health and human service as well as construction and maintenance jobs. 
  • Compensation was also ranked highly by nearly every job type, and was ranked as the #1 most important job attribute by top performers in office, administrative, and professional as well as construction and maintenance jobs.
  • Top performers in sales and marketing, specifically, ranked work/life balance as more important than top performers in other jobs.
  • Benefits tended to be more important to top performers in office, administrative, and professional; health and human service; construction and maintenance; and production, transportation, and material moving jobs.

These differences have been largely consistent over the past few years and suggest that gender, age, education level, job responsibility, and even employment status can affect what top performers are looking for in a job. Employers should take note of these differences and make sure that they align recruitment messages and the rewards within the work environment in ways that best attract top talent.

For more information about what top performers are seeking in a job, including specific percentages and breakdowns, please download our 2013 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report.

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