Revealed: The Best Companies for, Pay, Parity, Culture, and Career Growth

Which major tech company scores the highest in terms of promotion opportunities but has the worst levels of worker attrition?

Which bank has the poorest record of hiring people without college degrees?

Where can a bright young jobseekers look to rise through the ranks quickly and avoid being underpaid?

This information has long-been hard to find. Employers – and many of the recruiters they work with – will woo talent with glowing descriptions of promotion opportunities, competitive pay levels, gender parity, and great cultures, which can’t be confirmed or disproven until the new hire has started their employment. 

Late last year, a new ranking of Fortune 500 companies known as The 2023 American Opportunity Index considered factors like promotion rates, pay scales, and gender parity to create a comprehensive index. The ranking, a joint venture by the Burning Glass Institute, Harvard Business School, and Schultz Family Foundation, analyzed data from 396 companies, public information including professional profiles and résumés, pay data reported on Glassdoor, and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

It’s worth checking out the report at the source, but if you’re looking for the highlights, the Wall Street Journal has published a high-level breakdown of the major findings. It provides an interesting glimpse into where many of the nation’s top organizations do well, and where there’s a lot more work to be done. Let’s start with the top performers.

Coca-Cola earned its place at the top of the ranks for its comparatively high pay, a willingness to hire people without college degrees or significant work experience, and high retention. A spokesperson told the WSJ that Coke encourages employees at every level “to advance their careers through short-term assignments and projects, often in different departments or geographies.” The company also appears to genuinely listen, using regular employee surveys to adapt its programs.

However, Coke continues to struggle with its diversity efforts and gender parity, with another WSJ article revealing that these efforts have recently lost ground

Here’s an explanation of the five areas of measurement:

  • Promotion: Are workers moving up within the firm, and when they leave, are they advancing into a better job at their new employer?
  • Pay: How well are workers paid, and do their wages rise over time?
  • Hiring: Does the firm hire people without college degrees or significant work experience?
  • Parity: Are female, Black and Hispanic employees advancing at the same rate as other employees?
  • Culture: Do workers stay, and are managers and leaders drawn from within?

And what about our biggest employer? Walmart, according to the chart below, offers plenty of promotion opportunities, with three-quarters of salaried managers across stores and warehouses starting in hourly roles at the company. Scores plummeted for Pay, which is no surprise given Walmart’s famously low starting wages. 

The results for Banking tell an interesting story. As you can see below, it is still difficult to break into banking without a college degree or significant experience. Notably, there are no low scores for banks in terms of promotion opportunities, parity, and culture, suggesting the major banks are starting to make genuine progress in these areas.  

Then there’s the major tech companies. Amazon scores very high on Promotion but is struggling with Culture (employee retention and drawing leaders from within). It appears Meta needs to loosen up its hiring criteria or risk losing out on new talent in a fiercely competitive market.

Retail has always had a high rate of churn, which means there are plenty of opportunities for promotion with constant openings to fill. Similarly, retailers have a strong record of advancing female, Black, and Hispanic workers well beyond the lower rungs of the organization.  However, no Retailer scored highly in terms of Pay, while only one (Costco) scored positively on Culture.

Jobseekers will no doubt find this report a useful reminder that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” employer. Even the highest scorers like Coke have areas where they still have work to do. In the meantime, I’d encourage candidates to prioritize employers offering the best opportunities for promotion and career growth.