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Global survey uncovers organizations and employees misaligned on key rewards and motivations

Only 40 percent of executives say their organization helps them unlock their potential; Organizations missing opportunities to tap into their executives’ values and priorities

ZURICH, March 15, 2016 - There is mounting evidence that optimal performance comes from the alignment of an executive’s personal values with the organization’s culture and the role’s responsibilities, yet few executives or organizations have made the adjustments necessary to take advantage of this synergy, according to a global survey of senior executives conducted by Egon Zehnder, a leading global executive search and talent advisory firm.

The survey, entitled “What Makes You Thrive?” polled 1,275 senior executives worldwide regarding personal motivations and professional development. “There are a number of critical areas about which organizations and their executives are failing to communicate,” said Andrew Roscoe, leader of Egon Zehnder’s Executive Assessment and Development Practice and one of the co-authors of the study. ”If companies and executives can start to work together to align personal values and career trajectories, there is the potential to greatly increase job satisfaction, retention and performance across the global economy.”

The survey’s findings included:

Compensation is only one of many factors motivating executives. The most commonly cited motivation was “making a difference,” chosen by 55 percent of respondents, followed by “personal growth and development,” “leading and organizing others” and “monetary compensation,” each chosen by 45 percent of those surveyed. The wide range of motivations among leaders is underscored by the fact that no single factor was chosen by much more than half of the respondents.

Executives feel too much emphasis is placed on moving up the ranks. Seventy percent of respondents believe that there is too much emphasis placed on moving up the ranks, when lateral career movements should be equally esteemed. Furthermore, only 31 percent of respondents believe their organization has effective ways to reward high performance other than promotion.

Many executives are leaving their potential at the office door. Only 40 percent of executives said their organization helps them unlock their potential; 31 percent responded in the negative and 27 percent were neutral. In addition, 72 percent of those surveyed said they would welcome more help from their organization to pinpoint and pursue personal motivations and goals.

“Optimal performance occurs in the overlap between the organization’s needs and the executive’s needs,” noted Wolfhart Pentz of Egon Zehnder’s Berlin office and the study’s co-author. “Both sides need to work together to increase the size of this common ground.”

The study concludes with seven specific ways in which organizations and executives can improve the current situation. “Too often, professional development is a monologue given by the organization to the executive. It needs to evolve to a true dialogue,” said Andrew Roscoe. “But that isn’t only the responsibility of the organization. Executives need to take ownership of their own growth and trajectory and be active partners in that dialogue, rather than assume the only options are ‘take it or leave it.’”

About the study

“Leadership Identity – What Makes You Thrive?” is the fourteenth in a series of Egon Zehnder International Executive Panels, which survey senior leaders on important issues facing them today. Respondents are drawn from the firm’s global online community, The Club of Leaders, as well as followers of Egon Zehnder’s LinkedIn and Twitter channels. “Leadership Identity – What Makes You Thrive?” was conducted in the fall of 2015 and gathered responses from 1,275 senior executives from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America, representing a wide range of industries and organizational sizes.

For a copy of the results of the survey, please visit

About Egon Zehnder

Since 1964, Egon Zehnder has been at the forefront of defining great leadership in the face of changing economic conditions, emerging opportunities and evolving business goals. With more than 400 consultants in 69 offices and 41 countries around the globe, we work closely with public and private corporations, family-owned enterprises and nonprofit and government agencies to provide board advisory services, CEO and leadership succession planning, executive search and assessment, and leadership development. For more information visit and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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