Photo by Cocoon—Getty Images
By Anne Fisher
March 4, 2015

So, after several years when it seemed like almost no one was moving up, you finally got that promotion you’ve been working toward. Congrats! About 9% of employees earned bigger titles in 2014, says a new survey covering about 95% of the Fortune 500, from nonprofit HR association WorldAtWork. That’s a notable increase over the 7% annual promotion rate that prevailed during the recession.

Great, but the raise that comes with the new job has barely risen much over the past five years. Promotion-related pay hikes for salaried employees have grown from 8.3% in 2010 to about 8.8% now, the survey says. For officers and executives who have moved up, an increase of 9.5% in 2010 has ticked up to 10.1% — which is actually a bit less than the 10.2% that prevailed in 2012, the last time WorldAtWork conducted the poll.

The report suggests that employers are trying to reward more people by promoting them, yet without allowing salary costs to rise much, if at all. More than one-third (38%) of companies, for instance, say they fund promotion-related raises by keeping overall headcount low, via “savings from vacant positions” or “salary savings [from] hiring at a lower rate” than they otherwise would.

Not sure what it will take to move up to the next level where you work? You may have to put some effort into figuring it out. Despite the fact that most of the HR managers polled think information about possible career paths helps retain and motivate people, almost half (46%) say they “do not share promotion guidelines or policies with employees unless asked” — and another 21% say they don’t reveal promotion criteria even to employees who do ask.

Why not? Apparently, since fewer than 10% of employees move up to a bigger job every year, employers hesitate to raise the hopes of the 90% who don’t. Expecting a promotion and not getting it, the study suggests, makes people even less likely to stick around than not aspiring to it in the first place.


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