When faced with a choice between a promotion or learning and development, some employees might pick the less popular choice. Learning and development can build a person’s professional profile, whereas a promotion might just be a way to make a few extra dollars, take on more responsibility, and in many cases work more overtime. On the other side, many employees will choose the quick promotion and advancement instead of wanting to take the time for a training or professional development program.

A recent study by Quantam Workforce showed how age and tenure affect the desire for promotional opportunities versus learning and development. According to this study, nearly 70% of employees aged 25 and younger, and 60% of those with less than one year of experience in their current position, opted for a promotion instead of professional development.

As an employee gets older, he or she is clearly more likely to opt for learning and development opportunities instead of promotion and advancement opportunities. This leads me to believe that those who are younger are looking for the quick promotion instead of learning and development, and the older workforce wants the exact opposite. Promotions become less important as age increases and learning and development become more valuable. The reason for this is that as people become older, they may tend to think they’re losing touch with modern technology, which will make them irrelevant in the workplace if they can’t stay up to date.

There is a clear relationship between age, tenure in a company, and an employee’s decision to choose a promotion over learning and development. So what does this mean for your company? Here are three quick takeaways to gain from this study.

  1. Employees are still interested in learning and development. This study points out that the value employees put on learning and development grows with age, but is still very relevant to younger audiences. Creating a plan or strategy that encompasses learning and development in your company will not only help each employee individually, it will also help build a stronger workforce for your company overall.
  2. Employees want to be recognized for their work, so promotions are still relevant.In the tech world, there is a running joke that everyone is a CEO because everyone is starting his or her own company. No matter the size of the company, that title floats around like it’s soon to be going out of style. But when it comes to promotions in a corporate setting, employees are still interested in being the best and in being rewarded for it! Promote within your company, and you’ll create a workforce that has a stronger retention rate.
  3. Tie learning and development into promotional opportunities. Rather than making employees choose between one and the other, companies should tie learning and development opportunities into promotional opportunities. Younger people are looking for that quick promotion in most cases, but that doesn’t mean they’re always qualified for the job. Develop your employees and mold them into the employees you want them to be. From there, you can promote the ones who are shining brightest.
Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.


  • Avatar Patty R. says:

    As mass media shows, the young do not always want a promotion. “The Devil Wears Prada” or “The Proposal” show young people preferring assistant’s positions near popular leaders as a stepping stone to better positions in less important companies.

  • Avatar Vivian P. says:

    No wonder young people choose a promotion. Usually they are college graduates tired of studying and eager to prove they are worthy. They perceive a promotion as a label that manifests their success to their parents, partners, or college friends.

  • Avatar Scott M. says:

    Some were born to assist and some were meant to be assisted. And this should be counted on when promoting a person.

  • Avatar Martina Scott says:

    During an HR talk with one of my employees, I asked, ”What is more important, promotion or development?” The answer was, “To be wanted you need to be a star, and it is better to become a star on your level than a mediocrity on the next one.”

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