Percentage of Workers Receiving Promotions Declines

January 12, 2011 ( – A WorldatWork survey of U.S. organizations found that the average number of workers promoted during 2009 was 7%, down from a typical yearly average promotion list of 8.1%.

A news release said while all employee groups — nonexempt, exempt, officers/executives —saw declines in their average promotional increases, officers/executives saw the biggest decline from 11.4% in 2005 to 9.5% in 2010. The most influential factors in determining the amount of the increase are the pay range of the new position (66%), the rates paid to other employees in similar positions (60%), and external pay data (36%), according to the news release.

“A perceived lack of opportunity for career advancement and promotion can be demoralizing, especially to top performers,” said Kerry Chou, a senior practice leader with WorldatWork, in the announcement. “Our study shows that organizations continue to plan for promotions and many even proactively budget for it separately from other pay increase budgets. Organizations ought to communicate and raise the visibility of promotions as one of the key elements of their total rewards packages.”

Other findings included: 

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of organizations only share promotion guidelines when asked by employees and 6% only communicate guidelines to employees who are actually receiving a promotion.
  • Below the executive level, about four in every 10 organizations allow for a promotion at any time following hire, a quarter require at least six months of service, and another quarter require at least 12 months of service.
  • Once an employee is promoted, the most common practice is to allow him/her to participate in the nearest merit increase program (46%).

WorldatWork collected survey data from September 15 to October 1, 2010. There are 720 responses in the final dataset. Survey respondents are WorldatWork members employed in the HR, compensation and benefits departments of mostly large U.S. organizations; 71% are from private sector and 29% are from public sector and not-for-profit. The survey report is at