British businesses too often lose their most valuable high-flying talent because of a distinct and worrying lack of insight into what really motivates career-minded executives.
A report by Innecto Reward Consulting interviewed ambitious business executives under the age of 40 and in-house HR directors and managers and compared the two sets of findings.
It identified that, for rising executives, financial reward has become their number one motivator.
By contrast, HR professionals tend to believe the key motivators for this group are personal pride and challenging work.
Workplace attitudes are constantly changing, with people in their 20s and 30s prepared to change jobs on a regular basis as new career opportunities are readily available online.
Businesses, as a result, are losing key staff because of their inability to provide the appropriate pay rise or promotion, the research warned.
A majority of ambitious executives (72 per cent) expected a pay rise every year.
Yet three quarters of HR professionals admitted their organisation lost at least five talented individuals during the past year because they lacked pay flexibility to meet individual wage demands.
The research also found that only 39 per cent of businesses have an internal strategy in place to identify and nurture talent.
The Innecto report showed a distinct change in workplace attitudes among ambitious and career-minded individuals, with talented individuals showing an appreciation of their worth in the market place.
This too was helped by the internet, where like-for-like wage comparisons were in the public domain in addition to the current buoyant job market.
One in four "high flyers" admitted they quit a job in the past when they did not get a promotion they thought they deserved.
A further third stated they would quit a job if the same situation arose.
This group also demonstrated they are forthcoming in addressing pay rises: 35 per cent stated they would complain to their boss if they did not get an expected pay rise, 31 per cent said they would look for another job and 7 per cent said they would quit.
Nearly half stated they expected additional rewards at work.
However, although this group valued their skills highly, it was clear, as the HR professionals had identified, money was not the only motivator.
Nearly one third of this group said they would stay at their current job as long as there is a regular flow of interesting work to challenge them.
Nearly a third of the individuals polled consider themselves to be "career high flyers."
Yet most HR professionals considered that fewer than a quarter of their total work force was "talent". Just 15 per cent of HR professionals thought financial reward was the number one motivator for ambitious individuals.
Two in three HR professionals thought talented individuals should be treated differently. More than half of businesses did not budget for ad-hoc pay review demands, the survey also found.
Salary bracket was the top incentive that talented individuals value (71 per cent); followed by a nice house (62 per cent), job title (32 per cent) and holidays (28 per cent).
Deborah Rees, director of Innecto, said, "There are distinct changes in attitudes in the current job market, and HR professionals can't afford to accept the out of date notion that talented individuals are motivated by pride and interesting work alone.
"This research clearly outlines that a new generation of ambitious people are highly driven by financial reward, and are aware of their options in moving on," she added.
"When talented individuals are leaving jobs because they didn't get their expected recognition or promotion, UK businesses must re-consider their strategy to attract and retain their top talent – the cost of recruitment and the knock-on organisational performance dip is often too high a price to pay," she continued.
"HR directors must address their approach to retaining and continuously motivating their best staff.
"Part of best practice is to develop a pay structure which is flexible enough to reward key people whilst managing pay budgets effectively for all employee groups," she concluded.