Work in Progress podcast. Rajiv Chandrasekaran of Schultz Family Foundation talks about the American Opportunity Index, economic mobility, and career advancement
Work in Progress podcast. Rajiv Chandrasekaran of Schultz Family Foundation talks about the American Opportunity Index, economic mobility, and career advancement

Measuring employers on how much they value their workers and help them reach their career goals

A conversation with Rajiv Chandrasekaran, managing director, Schultz Family Foundation

In this episode of Work in Progress, I’m joined by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a managing director of the Schultz Family Foundation, to talk about the American Opportunity Index, a joint project of the Schultz Family Foundation, Harvard Business School, and Burning Glass Institute that ranks companies on how they are driving economic mobility and career advancement for their workers.

Whether you’re looking for a job or already have one, how do you know if your employer is interested in helping you get ahead in your career and, importantly, if they are interested in promoting talent from within?

For the past two years, the American Opportunity Index has been looking at those questions, measuring the career trajectories of nearly 5 million employees at close to 400 of the nation’s largest companies, and examining how those employers hire, pay, and promote workers.

“Do employers value their human talent? Do they create pathways for them to advance? And do they see their people as real assets that they can continue to build and grow their businesses with?” Chandrasekaran says there are some of the core questions that the Index set out to answer.

“What is so unique about the Index is that it’s not looking at what companies say they do. There are plenty of other folks out there that try to compile lists of what corporate inputs are. That’s all well and fine, but we decided to look at what’s actually happening to workers.

“For many workers, particularly those in lower wage jobs, those in mid-skill jobs, the reason that many workers get ahead and others don’t isn’t really because of their work ethic or their intelligence or their gumption. It’s because of the practices of their employer,” says Chandrasekaran.

The American Opportunity Index measures a company’s success in creating career advancement and economic mobility for its workers through five key components: hiring, pay, promotion, parity, and culture.

During the podcast, we discuss all five. Here is some of what Chandrasekaran had to say about one of them: hiring.

“We look at two critical things in hiring. We look at first jobs. We look at the percentage of open roles at a company that are open to people with little or no experience. How inclusive is this employer? Are they creating opportunities for people to enter the workforce?

“And then we look at something we call ‘degree barriers.’ We’re looking at the degree to which a company really hires for skills versus degrees. You’ve got a lot of companies out there that say, ‘We are embracing skills-based hiring. We removed degree requirements.’

“That is a policy that’s made from on high and is intended to be cascaded down. But in reality, you have hiring managers, when choosing among the slate of candidates, will often still default to the candidate that has the degree, even if the job doesn’t require it. And so assessing companies based on their policies, yes, you can learn something from it, but what’s so unique about the Index is that it’s actually examining what’s happening within the workforce in these large corporations.”

We go into great details about each of the five measures that were used to create the index and which companies are performing best when it comes to economic mobility and career advancement.

Which of the nation’s top companies made the Top 10? What are some of the companies with the best initiatives and programs when it comes to helping promote workers from within? And why are the best companies helping their workers prepare for careers and jobs with other employers?

Chandrasekaran answers all those questions and much more.

Learn more about the American Opportunity Index, and how employers and employees can use the information to their advantages, by listening to the podcast here, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find the conversation on our new Work in Progress YouTube channel.


Episode 304: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, managing partner, Schultz Family Foundation
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Transcript: Download the transcript for this episode here
Work in Progress Podcast: Catch up on previous episodes here

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