In the New York Times article Why Are Harvard Graduates in the Mailroom, Adam Davidson explores the “gambles” entry-level employees take in large companies for the potential reward of a big promotion.
Take, for example, a clerk at the U.S. Post Office and a mailroom employee at a large firm. They both may basically have the same job, but only one has the chance of landing a big promotion, even if they make less money today than their government-employed brethren. Your firm benefits from these highly skilled, though underemployed, workers. They are often performance-driven, ambitious, and will accept lower wages just to get a foot in the door. Think of it as an Internship 2.0.
There are plenty of “Mailroom Moguls” who have started at the bottom and worked their way up, including Dan Adler, VP at Walt Disney Imagineering, and George Bodenheimer, President of ESPN and ABC Sports division, who both started in the mailroom. Your company should be organized in such a way that talent and hard work are rewarded, rather than people just moving up based on titles.
The economic factors of the last four years have created a traffic jam of young professionals all vying for the same jobs — jobs which, as it turns out, are not opening up at the rate they should as legacy employees try to earn back their lost 401k’s, home values, etc., before retirement. Your lower-level employees are the same people who may have been middle-management already, had economic woes not stifled business growth for a half decade and counting.
All C-suite execs needs to be keenly aware of what is happening in their firm — who is moving in, who is moving out, and who is moving up? Use your interior network of directors, managers, and supervisors to identify high-potential employees, and put them where they are most useful to the firm and where their skills can be put to better use.
For those of us in executive recruitment, this also means we can’t just take a look at someone’s job title and recommend you hire based on that alone. Every company has under-utilized high-potential employees, and that’s where our research, paired with a comprehensive candidate assessment process, can target and recruit these employees from the competition and bring them to your firm. Make sure your corporate ladder extends to all high-potential employees, no matter where they are today, and take advantage of other companies whose vision is too short to see their own talent.