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5 Tips to Help Front-Line Workers of Color Advance Their Careers

Matt Gonzales | August 25 2022

A new study by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. shed light on the plight of employees of color who work in front-line positions.

The report found that 70 percent of Black and Hispanic employees in the U.S. are front-line workers. Many of these jobs lack health care benefits, don't pay a living wage and offer few opportunities for advancement.

"These workers are such a valuable part of a company's success, yet our research finds that there are significant challenges impacting the job experience of front-line workers, especially workers of color," said Monne Williams, co-author of the report and a partner with McKinsey.

Front-line workers include millions of low-wage employees in industries such as food services, manufacturing, transportation, maintenance and retail. The study did not include "front-line professionals," such as nurses and schoolteachers, who earn an average annual salary of $54,000.

Key findings include the following:

-On average, Black and Hispanic front-line workers make 20 percent less than white front-line workers.

-White front-line employees were most likely to receive advancement opportunities despite reporting the lowest desire for promotion.

-Representation of employees of color decreases as the requirement for interpersonal skills in roles increases.

-Black and Hispanic front-line workers report the lowest levels of sponsorship—nearly 60 percent have no sponsor at all.

-The lack of performance management rigor in front-line work allows for greater subjectivity in deciding who gets promoted.

"These findings demonstrate that there is much progress to be made toward creating a more equitable employee experience," Williams said.

What Is a 'Gateway' Role?

The positions with the greatest opportunity for advancement are what McKinsey researchers call "gateway occupations," which allow workers to build skills and earn higher wages. These jobs include food service managers, HR specialists and radiologic assistants.

"We know from our research that all front-line occupations are not created equally," Williams said. "Getting front-line workers into these gateway occupations is critical for advancing employees of color into the middle class."

According to the report, gateway roles:

Offer multiple paths to jobs that pay more than $42,000 annually.

Are resilient to automation.

Help workers develop new skills or broaden existing skills that can lead to promotions or higher-paying jobs.

For example, a server in the food industry can increase their chances of obtaining higher-level jobs like an HR specialist or employee resource manager by transitioning into a gateway position such as a job-training specialist. And a customer service representative can move into a gateway job such as a front-line supervisor of production to eventually become a sales or distribution manager.

"What we see is that Black and Hispanic employees are underrepresented in the 'gateway' occupations that have better chances for advancement," Williams said.

How Can Employers Help?

McKinsey researchers stated that companies that truly invest in the front line can make these roles a starting point for a fruitful career, a clear path to the middle class and a way to transition to new jobs across industries.

Williams offered five tips for companies to help front-line workers of color accelerate their careers:

- Formalize pathways for advancement from front-line to higher-level jobs.

- Reward on-the-job experience rather than focusing on credentials.

- Invest in mentors and sponsors for front-line workers.

- Give a voice to front-line workers.

- Hire front-line managers.

Promoting people of color makes a difference, according to Kimberly Lee Minor, founder and CEO of boutique firm Bumbershoot in Columbus, Ohio. She said the largest hurdle for front-line workers of color is the first promotion, after which the percentage of these employees in higher management roles falls to 35 percent and decreases by 50 percent at each subsequent management level.

"Many of my clients are retailers and food services, and all share similar statistics on their front lines," Minor explained.

She stated that many front-line roles are entry-level, and if the company doesn't have a training program, the job can become a dead-end position without a manager's commitment to the employees' professional growth.

"Unfortunately, stereotypes still play heavily in deciding who gets access to promotions," Minor said. "In other cases, managers select high-potential associates based on personal relationships, and humans usually build relationships with people they have something in common [with]."

In 2020, the Society for Human Resource Management outlined ways to create opportunities for workers of color, which can not only create a more inclusive environment but also improve recruitment and retention efforts.

New IPCC report shows critical need for accelerated climate action and oceans protection

by Greenpeace International | 25 September 2019

Monaco – The launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the Ocean and Cryosphere today, highlights the need for governments to urgently scale up and accelerate efforts to address the climate emergency and protect the world’s oceans.

Drawn from almost 7,000 papers by over 100 leading climate scientists, the IPCC report represents the most comprehensive assessment to date of the severity of climate impacts on our oceans and the cryosphere (frozen areas of the Earth).

Taehyun Park, global climate political advisor with Greenpeace East Asia, said:

“The science is both chilling and compelling. The impacts of human-made carbon emissions on our oceans are on a much larger scale and happening way faster than predicted. It will require unprecedented political action to prevent the most severe consequences to our planet.

“Climate action and building the resilience of our oceans need to go hand in hand and governments and industry know the solutions. They must take decisive steps to ditch fossil fuels and submit their national plans to stay below 1.5℃ by next year, when they will also need to deliver a strong Global Ocean Treaty capable of protecting at least 30% of the world’s oceans as marine sanctuaries.”

The IPCC report points to some potentially irreversible changes and growing threats to the Earth’s oceans and shrinking cryosphere. It comes as Arctic sea ice levels reached their second lowest level on satellite record – some 2.1 million Km2 below the average long term minimum area.

The IPCC also presents policy solutions to help governments mitigate the worst impacts of global warming and build climate resilience. It points to the challenges of oceans and cryosphere governance systems, which remain fragmented across administrative boundaries and sectors and fail to provide effective ocean protection.

Oceans campaigner, Chris Thorne with Greenpeace UK, said:

“World leaders at the UNSG Climate Action Summit this week pretended to care, but unless words translate into more ambitious commitments to address the climate emergency and forge a strong Global Ocean Treaty, they are failing the millions of climate strikers around the world who came out onto the streets demanding radical change.

“The IPCC report is another wake-up call for those governments who continue to sleepwalk through the climate crisis. The decisions that world leaders choose to make in the next few years will have profound consequences for the future of humanity in the coming centuries.”

In other findings, the IPCC report found:

-That sea-level rise by 2100 could be close to one metre if global warming exceeds 3°C, which is where the current global government policies are heading to. This could result in the displacement of millions of people from coastal areas.

-As sea surface temperatures increase and as oceans become more acidic, marine life and ocean ecosystems will suffer major challenges. Even if global warming is limited to the agreed target of 1.5°C, it is projected that up to 90% of warm water coral reefs will be lost.

-Widespread permafrost thaw is projected for this century. Arctic and Sub-Arctic Permafrost contains 1460-1600 Gigatons of organic carbon, equivalent to almost twice the carbon currently in the atmosphere.

-By the end of this century, the frequency of marine heatwaves could increase 50-fold (under temperature increases of 3-5℃) compared with the end of the 19th century.

Contact: For media interviews contact Patrick Fuller, press officer, Greenpeace UK: +44 7377730878 (onsite in Monaco)

Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours),


3 Keys to Being a Good Boss It is About Presence, Praise & Promise

Todays post is inspired by this one on small gestures made by good bosses, especially those at the most senior level.

It is also inspired by a sneak-peek I got at the results of our latest Workforce Mood Tracker survey (report to be released soon, stay tuned), which showed employees would rather have a better boss than more money in their paycheck.

That caused me to think about the characteristics of a better boss. While there are many, these three seem to rise to the top continually:

1-Presence You not only manage by walking around , you show up to meetings on time to signal that you value the work your employees are doing. When you are meeting with an employee, you shut off or totally ignore your email, IM, texts and any other interruptions to give your full attention to the employee. If employees need your support to push a key decision forward, you lend your visible presence and direct support.

2-Praise You make it a point to give your employees the frequent, timely and specific feedback they need to stay on track and move their projects forward appropriately. You recognize and appreciate them and their efforts that are especially in line with the companys core values and strategic objectives. Because you are diligent about catching employees doing something good, you also help employees receive constructive feedback more readily as they know the feedback is intended to help them advance.

3-Promise You help your employees see the future they have with the organization and in their career. You do not make undue or unwarranted promises of course, but you are committed to helping your team members grow and develop and they know it. You seek out training and development opportunities for them and encourage them to go. You give them realistic stretch goals to help them develop skills.

These three skills are foundational to earning the good boss title and all the perks that come with it (committed employees who happily go the extra distance). But there are many more.

What other signs of a good boss are important to you or do you strive to demonstrate?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is Vice President, Client Strategy & Consulting Service at Globoforce, a global provider of strategic employee recognition and reward programs. In his role as a thought leader for employee recognition at Globoforce, Derek helps clients set a higher ambition for global, strategic employee recognition, leading consultative workshops and strategy setting meetings with such organizations as Avnet, Celestica, Dow Chemical, Intuit, KPMG, Logica, P&G, Symantec, and Thompson Reuters.

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