In a July 2022 workforce article, a team of McKinsey consultants inspect the status of skill gaps and career mobility in the states surveying 2,100 frontline employees with the help of Cara Plus (Cara Collective). Using a $22 per hour threshold to define frontline worker, with four worker types:

  • Adverse experiences: addiction, involvement in the criminal justice system, domestic violence, and homelessness.
  • Black / Hispanic
  • Parents
  • STARs: Employees skilled through alternative routes.

Key findings

  • While job growth and pay were two of the top requests from employees, 73% also indicated a desire to work with a manager who supports their career and harnesses their skills.
  • Of the 70% respondents who signalled that they had applied for an internal promotion or more responsibility, success rates varied according to gender, background or race.
  • A graph (Exhibit 4) weighted a series of factors according to employee desires and employer views. It showed that managers tend to put more emphasis on intangible benefits, vacation and job security than pay and chances for job progression, which were in high demand from workers.
  • Respondents who had spent time in criminal justice system or had experienced homelessness were more likely to commit non-work hours to upskilling, 14% and 16% respectively.
  • Employers admit that their job descriptions and hiring sites rarely indicate future career development, only hiring their current vacancy with no future prospect.


  • Make progression visible in the first 90 days including the location and time allocation of learning material
  • Stretch assignments: on-job projects that develop skills
  • Cross-training opportunities: showcase different departments and pair staff with team members with an alternative skillset
  • Lateral opportunities: offer job roles in other departments