About WTS Prof. Clair Brown Faculty, Students and Affiliates Research Areas Online Research Reports Working Papers


Second Interim Report
Clair Brown, Editor

5. Appraisal and Promotion
Melissa M. Appleyard

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Promotion Criteria
5.3 Appraisals
5.4 Promotion Patterns

5.1 Introduction

This chapter describes the workings of the promotion and appraisal systems at the fabs in the HR subsample. Section 5.2 presents the primary criteria that fabs consider when promoting operators, technicians and engineers. As we hypothesize, the most important criterion for promotion is Skill Level. Our findings in Section 5.3 extend the analysis of appraisals by capturing who actually conducts the appraisals for each occupation. In general, operators are consistently appraised by their supervisors, whereas technicians and engineers conduct self-evaluations to a greater degree. Finally, Section 5.4 demonstrates that few operators and technicians ever are promoted to other occupations.

5.2 Promotion Criteria

In the mail-out questionnaire, we asked the fabs to rank the following criteria in order of importance for promotion: Attendance, Attitude, Output or Work Goals, Quality Record, Skill Level, Number of Skills, Team Participation, and Tenure. Given the technical complexity of each step of the semiconductor process flow and the need to understand these complexities for effective trouble-shooting, we hypothesize that fabs value skill depth more highly than skill breadth. The data are consistent with our hypothesis. Of the eight performance criteria, the fabrication plants in our sample ranked Skill Level at the top for all occupations—engineers, operators, and technicians (Figures 5-1 through 5-3). Number of Skills, our proxy for skill breadth, ranked no higher than fifth.

After Skill Level, Attitude, Output or Work Goals, and Quality Record are the next most important promotion criteria for all occupations. (Although for each occupation, they fall in a different order.) For the engineer occupation, Output or Work Goals is the second most important criterion across the fabs in our sample whereas it ranks third for the operator and technician occupations. The reason for this difference probably stems from the fact that engineers have more control over the process flow than the operators or technicians. Even though all of the fabs (except one Asian fab) reported having teams, Team Participation as a criterion for promotion ranked fifth for operators and technicians and sixth for engineers.

Of the performance criteria, Tenure ranked last. Less than half the fabs in our sample even consider Tenure in promotion decisions. For example, for the operator occupation, only 4 U.S. fabs, 1 European fab, and 1 Asian fab consider tenure when making promotion decisions. However, tenure and skill development are often closely related. In some Asian fabs, tenure and skill development go hand in hand, and so promotion based upon skill would result in similar outcomes to promotion based upon tenure with some exceptions at the high and low ends of performance and ability.

5.3 Appraisals

For each occupation, at least two people conduct appraisals at the majority of the fabs. As for who participates in appraising an individual's performance, self-evaluation is more common for engineers and technicians than for operators (Figure 5-4).

For engineers, Self and Peer performance appraisals are more common in the U.S. and Europe relative to Asia. Of the 7 fabs using at least one of these two modes of appraisal for the engineering occupation, 4 are located in the U.S., 2 in Europe and 1 in Asia. (Only 1 of the 7 fabs uses both modes, and it is a U.S. fab.)

The vast majority of the fabs in our sample appraise individual performance at least once per year, with the average being over 1.5 times across the three occupations. Only 4 fabs do not share the results of the appraisals with the individual being evaluated, and they are all located in Asia.

5.4 Promotion Patterns

To get a sense of the mobility across occupations, we asked the fabs for the number of operators and technicians promoted to different occupations in a given year. Of the fabs that answered this question, only two promoted more than 10 operators in a given year into a group leader, supervisor, technician, or "other" position (Table 5-1). Both of the fabs are located in the U.S. Only five fabs reported promoting operators to the technician category, with the average number of promotions being 3. These findings highlight the very limited career ladders that operators face in the semiconductor industry.

Table 5-1. Operator Promotions

In 1993 or 1994,

Number of Operators Promoted to:

No. of fabs

Reporting Operator Promotions

Max No. of Op's Promoted Median No. of Op's Promoted Avg No. of Op's Promoted
Group Leader 5 12 2 4.20
Supervisor 4 6 1.5 2.50
Technician 5 9 1 3.00
Other 1 1 1 1.00

As presented in Table 5-2, not a single fab promoted more than 4 technicians into a supervisor or engineer position. The highest number of technicians promoted to the engineer occupation was 2, and this occurred at an Asian fab. Again, our data demonstrate that promotions from hourly to salaried occupations are very rare.

Table 5-2. Technician Promotions

In 1993 or 1994,

Number of Technicians Promoted to:

No. of fabs

Reporting Technician Promotions

Max No. of Techs Promoted Median No. of Techs Promoted Avg No. of Techs Promoted
Supervisor 4 4 2 2.25
Engineer 3 2 1 1.33
Other 0 0 0 0.00

The limited number of promotions of operators and technicians outside of their occupations indicates that barriers exist. During site visits, we found that the primary barrier is additional schooling. Before an operator can be promoted to a technician, often the person is required to complete the equivalent of an AA or AS degree. Likewise, technicians who wish to become engineers often have to take college courses in engineering and science and complete the equivalent of a BS degree. Some fabs offer schooling on-site or in conjunction with a local community college, but the individual must often initiate the pursuit of additional education during his or her time off.

Another reason why few operators are promoted to the technician occupation is cultural. A few fabs in our sample have barriers along gender lines: women are operators and men are technicians or engineers. A final reason for the limited mobility of hourly workers is a monetary reward issue. Some operators and technicians whom we met during our site visits said that they are reluctant to relinquish the ability to earn overtime pay for a salaried position.

End of Chapter 5

Go to Chapter 6
Go to Table of Contents for this Chapter
Go to Table of Contents for the CSM-HR Interim Report

© 2005 Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. 
2521 Channing Way # 5555 
Berkeley, CA 94720-5555