Woman working from home

Work-life balance and salary rank equally as top job criteria

29 April 2022
Global survey conducted by CEMS
Research conducted by CEMS, the Global Alliance in Management Education among 4,206 professionals globally, reveals that a good work-life balance is rated on par with salary as their top criteria when seeking a new role.

CEMS, founded 29 years ago, is now a unique global alliance of business schools accredited to deliver a “globally integrated” Master’s in International Management (MIM) Program. The University of Sydney Business School is the only CEMS member in Australia and Professor Gregory Whitwell, Dean of the University of Sydney Business School, is CEMS Chair.

The research conducted by CEMS found that while across the board, work-life balance and salary were ranked equally, professionals over the age of 35 actually ranked the opportunity for work-life balance higher than salary.*

For the most recent graduates and younger professionals (under the age of 35), salary ranked only slightly higher than work-life balance. This indicates that while there is more to work than just money for younger professionals, salary is an important factor.

The global survey of 4,206 professionals from 75 countries found quick career progression and the chance to make an impact were also ranked highly, as the third and fourth key criteria which would influence the decisions of all professionals to apply for a job.

Of 107 respondents from Australia and New Zealand, the criteria that would most influence their decision to take on a new role included salary (top), followed by a good work-life balance, career progression, inspirational leadership and then structured support for career acceleration.

While opportunities for global travel appeared in the top five criteria for the youngest respondents (19-25), it was far lower down the list for other age groups, who rated inspirational leadership further up.

Nicole de Fontaines, Executive Director of CEMS, said: “Our research reveals that for professionals globally, although salary will always be an important factor, work is not all about money.

Achieving a good work-life balance and getting the chance to make an impact in a role is more important than ever, for employees of all ages.
Nicole de Fontaines, Executive Director of CEMS

“As we transition back into the office, at a time when attracting and retaining top talent is high on the agenda, it is important that organisations listen carefully to what professionals most desire from roles and act on this. This way, they can attract the most talented staff, benefit from the ambition of their people, encourage innovation and ultimately gain competitive advantage in an uncertain age.

“Where early career professionals are concerned this means providing plenty of opportunity to tackle projects that deliver real global impact, whilst also recognising their need to have a life outside of work. At CEMS we see this in action through our forward-thinking corporate partners, who recognise the benefit of working with young people on impactful global business projects, to make sure they are as prepared as possible when they reach the workplace.”  


CEMS carried out the research in Autumn 2021 among 4,206 of their alumni based in 75 countries around the world, the majority of whom are in professional roles, with many in senior management positions.

*Overall 21 percent of respondents named work-life balance and salary when asked about their top three criteria when looking for a new role either within their own company or a different one.

20 percent of respondents under 35 years old named salary compared to 19 percent work-life balance.

22 percent of respondents over 35 years old named work-life balance compared to 19 percent salary.

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