The American Opportunity Index, a scorecard that ranks large companies by how well they create economic mobility for their workers, was launched recently by The Burning Glass Institute, Harvard Business School's Managing the Future of Work Project, and the Schultz Family Foundation.
The Index, which assesses the 250 largest U.S. public companies based on the real-world experience of more than three million of their employees, is unprecedented in its focus on worker outcomes, not corporate policy or practice. Compiled through a big-data analysis of career histories, job postings, and salary sources, the Index studies the progress of workers in jobs that are open to those without a college degree.
"Opportunity and upward mobility have long been central to the American experiment, however, this generational trend has been on a decades-long downward slide. If you were born in the 1940s, you had a 90 percent chance of doing better than your parents. Today, it's even odds," said Matt Sigelman, president of the Burning Glass Institute. "Much analysis of economic advancement focuses on a worker's individual education, training, and experience, or even personality, but the truth is the country's biggest companies play a crucial role in creating opportunities for their employees to thrive."
"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," noted Joseph B. Fuller, professor of management practice, Harvard Business School and co-director of Harvard Business School's Managing the Future of Work Project. "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 measures which companies are most likely to create opportunity for workers in roles open to non-college graduates across three criteria:
Where you work is critical: Workers at companies at the top end of the Index earn almost 2.5 times more than their peers in the same roles at companies ranked at the lower end of the Index. Across a range of roles, this can translate to a difference of $1.5 million or more over the course of a career.
What your employer does matters: Workers at companies ranked high on the Index get promoted a year faster on average than workers at companies ranked lower on the Index. After five years, workers at well-performing firms will advance almost three times further.
There is no single model of opportunity: There are different drivers of opportunity creation, including access, wage, and mobility, that vary depending on the shape, culture, and business model of a company. A firm's sector matters but isn't its destiny – the top 50 list includes companies from 21 out of 27 sectors. With 161 of the Fortune 250 appearing on at least one list, most companies are delivering well for workers in at least one way, but all have work to do to improve.
The Index offers a set of concrete goals to which companies can aspire: The performance of top firms on each metric provides a set of actionable benchmarks: an average time to promotion of no more than five years; five-year retention rate of at least 70 percent of a starting cohort; and wages that are at least 40 percent above the median wage for a given occupation.
The goal of the Index is 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.