WIP Fuller and Chandrasekaran

American Opportunity Index: What makes a company a good place to grow your career?

A conversation with Joseph Fuller, professor at Harvard Business School and co-head of the school's Managing the Future of Work Project, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, head of strategy at the Schultz Family Foundation

In this episode of Work in Progress, I’m joined by Joseph Fuller, professor at Harvard Business School and co-head of the school’s Managing the Future of Work Project, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, head of strategy at the Schultz Family Foundation.

Everybody benefits from an upwardly mobile workforce,

So, how is corporate America doing when it comes to creating a culture of advancement for workers within their businesses, particularly those without a four-year college degree?

That’s the question at the heart of the American Opportunity Index (AOI), a dynamic analysis of the nation’s top 250 biggest companies – and their investment in their employees and their careers – from Harvard Business School, Burning Glass Institute, and the Schultz Family Foundation.

“American businesses are struggling to hire, grow and retain the workers they need to remain competitive. They lack visibility on how their workers advance and how their policies affect their employees’ prospects. They are missing critical components of the big picture,” says Fuller, one of the authors of the report.

He adds, “The Index assesses how effectively large corporations manage their human talent, identifies which companies are leading the way, and provides a framework for benchmarking progress.”

The Index focuses on worker outcomes and is based on the real-world experience of more than three million of their employees.

AOI measures which companies are most likely to create opportunity for workers in roles open to non-college graduates across three criteria: 

  • access (who is able to join the company), 
  • wages (how well they are paid), and
  • mobility (how far a worker will advance – either at that company or once they leave for another company).

“Our objective is to get companies to ask ‘Have we implemented policies that advance our workers prospects of growing with us? (Are we) creating an environment that creates opportunities for growth in all dimensions, growth in skills, growth in income potential, growth in promotability for their workforce? Are we tracking those metrics because you are what you track, you are what you measure? And are we pursuing best practice in light of what we can see other people are achieving?” adds Fuller.

According to Chandrasekaran, the fundamental goal to give both employers and workers greater transparency into how workers can get ahead and how companies can most effectively use their human capital.

“We believe that when workers can advance, when they can find upward mobility, they can achieve the pathways to continue to grow their careers, everybody benefits. It’s not just the workers, but companies themselves. Turnover is reduced. Companies become more efficient. They can fill their talent needs more effectively from within,” he adds.

Chandrasekaran explains what the Index to “empower workers to make better decisions as to what positions to seek and what firms to prioritize in their job searches; recognize companies that are setting an example of how to create opportunity; and arm corporate executives and HR leaders alike with data they need to take meaningful action within their companies to boost the competitiveness of their workforce.”

The original American Opportunity Index was published last fall, identifying the 50 best firms across five different models of opportunity creation: the Best Workplaces to Advance Within, the Best Workplaces to Start From, the Best Workplaces to Stay and Thrive at One Company, the Best Workplaces to Advance Without a College Degree, and the Best Workplaces That Grow Their Own Talent.

The highest-ranked companies overall include: AT&T, American Express, Cisco, PG&E, Microsoft, Fiserv, HF Sinclair, Liberty Mutual Insurance, International Paper, and Southwest Airlines.

The 2023 American Opportunity Index will be released later this fall and Chandrasekaran says it will cover even more of the Fortune 500 and expand into several new categories of assessment.

“We’re adding in some new metrics. We will be looking at measures of disparity. We’ll be looking, for instance, at mobility for individuals who are Black and Hispanic compared to those who are not at companies. We’ll also be looking at how men and women may fare differently at companies,” he says.

“In addition, we’re going to take a focus as well on the culture of the workplace, (creating an) even more robust picture of opportunity creation and to create an even more useful tool for companies to manage their human talent,” concludes Chandrasekaran.

Both Fuller and Chandrasekaran offer more insight into the importance of the American Opportunity Index. Download the podcast here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

And coming up in September, our WorkingNation video team will take you inside two of the top-ranked companies in the Index – Microsoft and International Paper – as we talk to employees to get their thoughts on why the companies are among the best places to advance your careers.

Episode 283: Joseph Fuller, Harvard Business School and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Schultz Family Foundation
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts