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The Importance of the “Right” Employer for Career Advancement

Does it really matter where you work? According to the results of a new study, it can have an enormous impact on your career in the long term. For franchises looking to attract and retain talent, it’s critical to determine what kind of employer the company wishes to be, and how its approach to promotion and career development fits with that strategy.


The American Opportunity Index observed U.S. workers and their career mobility based on a recent five-year study recently completed by the Burning Glass Institute. Boiled down to basics, the conclusion is simple: choosing to work for the “right” company can help you get ahead, while workers at the “wrong” companies may stagnate in their roles and struggle for promotions and raises.


Between 2017 and 2021, BGI, along with the Harvard Project on Managing the Family and the Schultz Family Foundation, analyzed information on workers from around 200 of the largest U.S. companies. To evaluate worker success, mobility, and advancement, researchers assigned scores to companies across nine key categories: promoting up, promoting out, barriers (hiring workers without bachelor’s degrees), entry-level (hiring inexperienced workers), retention, top-down (filling roles from within the company), velocity, level change, and wages.


Based on composite scores across these nine categories, the research team identified AT&T and American Express as the top companies overall for economic and career opportunities. Rounding out the top five are Cisco Systems, PG&E, and Microsoft. Other companies excelled in some areas, but not all.


As a result, the researchers developed three overarching “profiles” for companies and their commitment to employee advancement: those that offered employees the ability to ascend within their ranks; those that helped employees advance to outside opportunities; and those that provided job stability.


Internal mobility is more common among college graduates going into fields like sales or tech, whereas those without a four-year degree are more likely to be shunted into “front line” jobs where the focus is on compliance, not advancement. Researchers found that retail did particularly well on this front, having a large share of entry-level and inexperienced workers but also a higher rate of advancement up through the ranks. Companies like Gap, Nordstrom, and Macy’s were singled out, as well as Verizon and AT&T. Dollar General earned notice for a high number of promotions, while competitor Dollar Tree ranked high for opportunities for non-degreed employees.


On the other hand, “Launchpad” companies are notable, not for supporting internal employee growth, but for being an unusually great place to start a career and to gain the experience and network needed to move to another company. AT&T, for instance, sees many of its entry-level hires eventually go on to higher-level and higher-paid roles at other companies. CVS, Apple, and Cisco also ranked highly for advancement to outside opportunities, although the latter two companies don’t hire as many true entry-level employees.


Finally, there are the companies that provide stability above all. Industries like oil and gas, mining, tech, and aerospace are known for relatively high pay and retention, as well as hiring from within their industries much more than hiring “outsiders.” Top companies that fit this profile include Lumen Technologies, Eli Lilly & Co., Freddie Mac, and ExxonMobil.


Franchises often face similar dilemmas when it comes to hiring. Because many franchises tend to be in industries that have a high proportion of inexperienced or entry-level workers (retail, service, and so on), they may be more likely to fit the “promote from within” model. Investing in career development and having a reputation for internal stability and promotion can, in fact, help franchises to combat the high rates of turnover common in the franchise world. This might even produce a next generation of franchise owners who have a long and loyal history with the brand.


About the Author

Nancy Estep-Critchett is a founding Partner of Blue Rock Search, with oversight of the Franchise Practice. She has 30 years of successful working experience as a business advisor and executive recruiter in the franchising space. Nancy has built solid relationships which have spanned decades with industry professionals and internationally recognized brands.


Blue Rock Search is an MBE Certified, minority-owned executive search firm, an SRA Network member, a Hunt Scanlon Top 10 global recruiting firm, and a member of the Hunt Scanlon HR/Diversity Recruiting Power 65.  We specialize in the targeted identification, assessment, and placement of executives across four distinct practice areas: Human ResourcesFranchiseHigher Education, and Customer Experience.

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