Stairway to promotion: Luck, good network or superior’s favouritism?

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Stairway to promotion: Luck, good network or superior’s favouritism?

Promotion sentiments by SEEK Asia provide in-depth insights into the perceived protocols in moving up to the organisational structure.

The term “labor of love” often resonates with an employee’s passion and commitment towards their work. As many employees work on their career advancement, a new SEEK Asia survey reveals employees look for transparency and consistency in promotion practices.

SEEK Asia, a leading total HR solutions provider in the Asia region, unveils one of its signature contents – Job Promotions Report 2017 – which sets to redefine promotion through examining the nascent trend and various factors influencing promotion in addition to zooming in on attitudes of employees towards promotion practices. The report surveyed 10,389 employed individuals and 518 employers from a blend of industries and specializations across seven countries: Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam.

According to SEEK Asia’s Job Promotions Report 2017, the data revealed that “good performance reviews” is the top factor to get promoted. But other factors fall short of employees’ perception on aspects that influence promotion decision where they cited owning an influential web of connections, catering to immediate supervisors’ preference, and luck as a determinant for career promotion.

Stairway to promotion: Luck, good network or superior’s favouritism?

“There is a mismatch in the factors that affects promotion where hirers and employees do not see eye-to-eye. This may due to employees working environment’s cultural nuances or intrinsic and external perception derived from their previous working experience. Or simply, hirers do not want to be seen as placing favoritism in promotion decision,” said Justin Yiu, General Manager of Jobs DB Hong Kong Limited.

Stairway to Promotion: Luck, Good Network or Superior’s Favouritism?

When asked to rate the promotion practices in their company, as many as 80% of employees across the countries surveyed reported being given more duties or responsibilities while only 40% respondents reported getting promoted formally. The large discrepancies may affect employees’ morale as employees may see these practices as a means to take advantage of them as extra responsibilities do not translate into add value in their career journey.

The research further discussed on the mismatch thinking between hirers and candidates, aiming to highlight the incumbent views on protocols to live up to transcending the corporate ladder. Hirers rank “taking on more responsibilities”, “getting coaching/mentoring”, and “volunteering for projects” as key activities in influencing promotion decisions. On the contrary, “volunteering for projects” or “getting coaching/mentoring” doesn’t fall under the radar of employees. 

In response to this, Yiu said “Nothing comes easy, taking initiative shows leadership skills and seeking out for mentorship show hirers that you are pro-active. The more knowledge and technical expertise an employee has, translates to better productivity and bottom line for the company. As such employees should take note of these determinants as they work towards promotion.”

Across seven countries surveyed, the grand average before a promotion occur is reported at 2.75 years. The position levels that have been revealed to take longest period of time to transcend to a higher position are the upper management levels. However, this sentiment is not shared in Singapore and Hong Kong, where supervisors and professional / technical level employees are reported to take the longest period of time to climb the corporate ladder. 

Stairway to Promotion: Luck, Good Network or Superior’s Favouritism?

Other key highlights of the survey revealed that:

  • Average promotion salary increase tends to be higher in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Philippines at 20-24%.
  • The promotion salary increase in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand averages between 14-17%.
  • 41% of promoted respondents did not receive any additional benefit apart from a salary increase. The highest prevalence of “no extra benefits” is reported in Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.
  • Majority of promotions across the seven countries surveyed occurs in January, June and December.
  • 53% of hirers in Hong Kong reported that the budget for promotions in companies is not cast in stone, indicating that promotion opportunities are available for those who perform well.

“The result of the survey can be a good reference point for hirers and employees. Hirers can use the promotion sentiment to improve their talent management strategies and policies while employees can take note of factors that influence promotions to hone their skills, and better ready themselves in their career journey,” said Yiu.


SEEK Asia, which houses and jobsDB, has local industry intelligence backed on a regional network that equips hirers and candidates with insights on the regional recruitment industry through its signature content. Utilizing the comprehensive unique data it has on Asia’s human capital pool of 30 millions of jobseekers, SEEK Asia supplements hirers with powerful insights via Jobstreet and jobsDB.

In addition to Job Promotions Report 2017, SEEK Asia publishes signature content sourced from its regional and country-specific data such as: Top 10 Companies survey, Job Happiness Index survey, Bonus survey, Job Outlook and Salary survey, Fresh Graduate Report, to help jobseekers make important career decisions, and provide industry intelligence for hirers to make strategic decision.


Further reading: 

5 ways to motivate your employees when promotions aren’t an option

3 strategies hirers can use to combat high turnover

This article is either written or edited by jobsDB HK. If you would like to publish it on other website or publication, please contact us by email: [email protected]. jobsDB reserves the right to take legal action against any person that infringes the copyright.

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