These days, recruiters pull out nearly all the stops when recruiting MBA talent. They dangle massive salaries. They offer remote working options and job flexibility. In some cases, they provide an entire community on their campus — gyms, restaurants, childcare, even hair stylists. But according to data crunched last month by TransparentCareer, the online MBA job platform, to keep top MBA talent, the most important factor is perception of the “quality of coworkers” of recent MBA graduates.
To register on TransparentCareer’s platform, which is the only way to unlock its trove of data from what recent MBA graduates make at certain companies and industries to how satisfied they are in certain roles at specific companies and industries, users must fill out their own info. The result, according to a blog post on the site by Co-Founder and CEO, Mitch Kirby, is “tens of thousands of highly detailed compensation, satisfaction, and culture data points representing over 6,000 companies and 3,000 job titles.”
TransparentCareer collects an overall job satisfaction score from its users as well as individual metrics on eight categories related to employee satisfaction. In addition to quality of coworkers, the data includes ratings on areas from “brand/prestige” of the company they work for, to “balance & flexibility” to “compensation, benefits, and perks.”
“This is different than most other studies of this kind,” Kirby wrote. “We didn’t just survey people on what they think makes them happy, we actually use regression analysis to see how the various attributes employees rate about their jobs actually predict their overall satisfaction in the job.”
QUALITY OF COWORKERS TESTS HIGHER THAN FLEXIBILITY AND COMPENSATION
The math is slightly convoluted. Kirby, who founded his high school’s rocket club and coded the Transparent Career platform himself, enlisted a multiple linear regression equation examining how each of the eight potential factors of job satisfaction actually predict overall satisfaction.
“Using about 1,700 employee job ratings we wanted to see which of the factors we collect best predicted employee satisfaction,” Kirby explained in his post. “To do this, we ran a multiple linear regression of the eight work environment attributes and looked to see how each of them alone as well as combined was able to predict an employees overall satisfaction on the job.”
Out of the eight, no other category posted higher scores in the calculation than the quality of the coworkers. Balance and flexibility finished second, while compensation and benefits came in third. And training and skill development rounded out the top half. The last four factors were brand prestige of the firm, opportunities for advancement within the company, hours worked per week, and percent of travel per year, which had no real correlation, Kirby concluded.
DAY-TO-DAY INTERACTIONS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ABSTRACT FACTORS
“My interpretation is that the attributes that are the best predictors of satisfaction are actually the ones that people have to deal with on a daily basis,” Kirby wrote.
Or, the hot company names and reputations or massive salaries might not matter like other similar studies suggest.
“You spend every day with these people,” Kirby reasoned, speaking of coworkers. “If you have a boss you hate or the people around you don’t inspire you to do good work, then no matter what, its going to be hard for you to enjoy going to work.”
On the other hand, Kirby explained, being surrounded by inspiring people can make even the lamest of work seem exciting. More abstract attributes like perceived brand prestige, potential for advancement, and on-the-job training, might have a stronger initial attraction for an MBA to a company, but those often don’t impact how an employee feels on a day-to-day basis, Kirby wrote.
PERCEPTION OF CONTROL OVER HOURS WORKED MORE IMPORTANT THAN ACTUAL HOURS WORKED
One surprise Kirby noted was the that work-life balance finished so high on the list yet attributes like hours worked and travel finished at the bottom, again, with travel having no statistical influence on overall satisfaction.
“These seem to be at odds,” Kirby concluded. “My explanation would be that it’s not really about how much you’re working or traveling, but really how much control you have that determines satisfaction. You can work a lot, but be happy, but if you have no control over your ability to balance work with other aspects of your life, then dissatisfaction sets in.”
While this data certainly doesn’t tell the entire story, Kirby believes the findings have significant implications for both job seekers and employers.
“Many fail to truly assess how well they will enjoy working with their future co-workers,” Kirby wrote. “For employers, many think that pay raises may be the best way to retain employees. Instead, focusing on policies that give people more flexibility and control over their lives or that create cohesive and high-performing cultures may be much more impactful.”