DNA of top talents - what top leadership talents expect from their employers

In order to scientifically back up our profound talent management know-how, we conducted an exclusive survey in cooperation with the university of technology in Munich (TU München). In March 2012 we intensely surveyed 600 handpicked leadership-talents, all members of the QX-Excellence-Network, about their preferences and impressions when choosing their current employer.

The main result of the study is that the “Human Factor” has the most crucial and sustainable influence on top talents’ decisions in their professional life. Whether it was the definition of the ideal employer, the reasons for accepting a particular job offer or the motivation for staying loyal with their current employer, top talents overwhelmingly mentioned inspiring colleagues and executives as a decisive factor.


  • Ideal Employer: In addition to a varying and challenging content of their work, top talents expect inspiring colleagues and executives, a respectful approach to employees as well as a professional corporate management from an ideal employer
  • Recruiting Process: The interviewer is much more important than the process itself: the best interviewers serve as role models and ultimately represent those inspiring colleagues, which 90 percent of the talents essentially expect from their employer
  • Onboarding: Top talents want to be immediately productive in order to give proof of their value-adding abilities
  • Retention: Top talents are loyal to their current employer if they are happy with their (inspiring) colleagues and if they have sufficient value-adding opportunities – monetary incentives play a less important role

QX recommendations for recruiting and retaining top talents

  • Employer Branding efforts need to highlight the inspiring work environment. Credibility is crucial in this respect
  • Personal contacts with leadership talents should be developed at an early stage with a strong company presence at networks, fairs, workshops, and universities
  • Promoters and Role Models with exemplary careers should be instructed to serve as company representatives to support the establishment of contacts and the recruiting processes with top talents
  • Professionally managed talent pools can foster a personal exchange among colleagues across various business units and seniorities
  • Vertical talent pools can additionally support internal coaching and mentoring, enabling top talents to quickly add value
  • Continuous investments in individual career opportunities strengthen the Employer Brand – this is how companies can attract and retain top talents

About the participants

  • Age: 73 percent of the respondents are older than 30 years with about one third of all participants being in the – with regard to executive positions highly interesting – interval between 35 and 39 years
  • Academic Background: The respondents cover 25 industries from consulting, financial services, manufacturing and retail to research. About 85 percent hold an academic degree in form of a “Diplom”, Master or state examination. 20 percent of these have an additional PhD degree.
  • Top-Executives: With an average professional experience of more than 8 years the respondents represent a group of top leadership talents, which is usually out of reach for surveys. This is also reflected by the unique income distribution: 51 percent earn more than 100.000€ per year, 11 percent earn even more than 250.000€ per year. 61 percent are in leadership roles with managerial responsibilities.