Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 193. Today we have Steve from CareerPoint about the business case or use case analysis for why folks use CareerPoint.

Steve is the founder and CEO of CareerPoint.com, an online coaching platform whose two-part mission is to help a million young people advance in their careers and level the playing field for underrepresented groups.


Show length: 35 minutes


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Steve McIntosh
CEO CareerPoint

Originally from the west coast of Scotland, Steve is a recovering accountant, HR professional and author of The Employee Value Curve: the unifying theory of HR and career advancement helping companies and their people succeed together. He began his career with global accounting firm KPMG before founding financial services recruitment firm, CML in 2004.


Speaker 1: Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the Storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Steve from CareerPoint. We’ll be learning about the business case or Use Case or cost benefit analysis for why folks use CareerPoint. So without any further ado, Steve, would you please introduce both yourself and CareerPoint?

Steve: Awesome. Thanks. Thanks for having me.

William Tincup: Sure.

Steve: So I’m founder and CEO of careerpoint.com and we are a career advancement coaching platform. So let me break that down because you’re probably saying, a what right about now? So let me start by talking about career advancement and why it’s the most underutilized tool in the management toolbox. I spent 20 years working in recruitment and HR consulting. I was CEO of the company. So much of my experience comes from having worked with the thousands of professional and executive candidates working with blue chip financial services firms as an HR consultant, but also just the experience of managing people and that struggle. And I had an experience 10 years ago. So I’ve been in this as a really, just as a passion project for the last 10 years. And I think this the origin story of CareerPoint, if you like, I had this experience.

So I’ll give you this short version is that I had this young man. He was 28 years old. He was working in our recruitment firm. And we announced that we were opening a new office and we introduced the chap that we had hired to head up this new office. And the next day my young colleague came to my office and resigned. And I was surprised because I thought he was doing quite well. He was living a good life. And I thought things were going pretty well. So I wanted to know why, what’s gone wrong. And it turned out that he was indignant at not having been given the opportunity to run this new office, which came as a surprise to me because he wasn’t someone who had demonstrated his ambition through his behavior in the company. Right?

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: He hadn’t, to me, he had seemed like someone who didn’t have that ambition. So it was a big surprise to me to find out that he had. He hadn’t volunteered to lead a project. He hadn’t come to me with ideas or problems. He was the kind of guy who put initiatives that I came up with to move the company forward. And worst of all, he’d never expressed this ambition to advance, which was why it was such a big surprise to me. And so what, but… And at first I thought that he had made a big mistake, but it took me months of ruminating on this and thinking, how could it be that he thought he was the natural choice for this position? And in my mind, he was the last person that I would’ve picked. And what I realized very quickly was that it wasn’t him that made a mistake. It was me because the reason he hadn’t done any of the things that I was expecting someone to do is that I’d never told him what those things were.

William Tincup: That’s right.

Steve: And the reason he’d never expressed his ambition to advance was that I’d never asked. And so right away I had this moment of panic like, who else in my company is about to resign because I haven’t had this discussion with them?

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: And speaking to friends and colleagues who were running financial service, these companies and our client base, obviously, I found out that this wasn’t just my company. This was basically every company had this exact same dynamic, what I describe as a don’t ask, don’t tell career advancement environment where people aren’t expressing their ambitious and they’re not having the constructive conversations. And it leads to a great deal of frustration. So, that was the right away I saw this opportunity and I started a series of workshops about career advancement to really teach people how career advancement works.

And this was just a one-day workshop, but the feedback that I got from this right away, I realized actually, this is needed because it’s the… I called it the missing workshop. It was the training course that everybody should have in the first week with any new job is how to advance with this company. So I developed a framework and a whole methodology. A couple of years ago, I was partway through an MBA. This was, I guess, the middle of the pandemic had already begun.

We were a few months in and I had a moment like many other people where I thought, what do I want to be doing with the rest of my career? And as what do I want to be spending it on? And I decided that I wanted to do something that had a big impact on the world and the career advancement coaching was the part of my job that I was most passionate about. And I decided to start CareerPoint as a way to bring it to the masses. So our mission is to help 1 million young people advancing their careers and to level the playing field for historically disadvantaged groups.

William Tincup: A lot to impact on there. One of the things I want to unpack is just, again, the story of the person who you didn’t know, you couldn’t read their mind. And you didn’t really have a utility to understand what their hidden ambitions and desires were. And it gets at the heart of who manages one’s career? Is it the individual? Is it the company? Is it co-owned, et cetera? But being blindsided, I’ve been blindsided by this particular thing twice in my life. And in both cases, I call it regrettable turnover, regrettable churn. In both cases, I would’ve given money, cars, titles, not to name children at. What do you need? But at that point it’s too late.

Steve: Exactly. And you’ve hit the nail on the head and it’s I think this is part of what you’ve articulated. There is really the don’t tell part, the don’t ask, don’t tell. That for most people, their perception is that is the company’s responsibility to talk to them about their career advancement. But for most, the perspective of most managers and leaders, the onus is on the individual to step up and demonstrate their ambition. So one of the lessons that we share with coaches is what I call the three-step plan for guaranteed career success, which goes like this; step one, tell your company that you want to advance. Because that is where it most often goes awry is simply that someone is, if you have articulated your ambition, it’s the start of a conversation. Step two is to ask what you need to do to advance. And you can probably guess that step three is to do it.

William Tincup: Yeah.

Steve: And it sounds so simple and yet anyone who’s led teams will know how rarely it happens.

William Tincup: Yes. And what’s interesting about all three of them is there’s some Buddhism in there, hidden in there is actualize itself, actualization. It’s, you have to envision. And I have an idea, a vision of what you want to do, communicate what you want to do, and then fulfill on that thing. So you in some ways, of course, kind of reducing parts of Buddhism down to something really simple. It’s not more complex than that.

Steve: It’s very complex, right?

William Tincup: It is complex.

Steve: Because it’s like a completely open landscape and this is why people need help.

William Tincup: Yes.

Steve: They really need someone impartial to talk to. And although in an ideal world bosses and leaders coach their teams, for this specific thing it’s very difficult for them to do because really what employees need is someone independent and impartial who can get good advice.

William Tincup: 100%.

Steve: And it’s just not, it’s very difficult for a manager and a leader to do that. And that’s kind of that’s where CareerPoint coaches come in.

William Tincup: It’s hard for them. First of all, it’s, I would say almost impossible. And it’s not all the negative stuff that you see in the media like bad manager stuff. Yeah, there’s that of course. But a lot of it is they can’t see themselves out of their own interest. So as a manager or a leader, they can’t give you advice that’s counter, or that’s very difficult to give a person advice that’s counter to their own interests.

Steve: Exactly.

William Tincup: If we’re talking to a subordinate or somebody that you work with a peer, and really the best advice is you’ve tapped out. You’ve literally hit the ceiling and you want the next thing, and you should want that. You’ve communicated that you want that, but you’re not going to get the next thing here.

Steve: Yeah.

William Tincup: The advice should be, you need to actually go and go to a bigger firm or go and do what you want to do. And so the advice would be leave, which what manager and what executive is, again, some will, of course, but it’s very difficult to get out of your own interests. And so I think that’s where objectivity and having someone that’s neutral or impartial or objective that can say, listen, here’s what I see. You got three different paths here that you can go. You could definitely stay there and keep communicating, and maybe even help them develop.

The next thing for you develop a new position for yourself. You could leave or you could just deal with it. And so and again, dealing with it is like coming to grips with and coming with emotionally and intellectually that, okay, I’m at a good place. Yes, it’s not what I want or what I wanted, but it’s, yeah, I’m at a good place. And again, an objective person can give you, those are just dumb examples, but an objective person can give you options.

Steve: Yeah. And what we are specifically focused on. So the reason that we talk about career advancement coaching is the career coaching is traditionally associated with changing career path or changing job. And that’s not what we are about. So we’re about working with leaders and their teams to help them become more successful together through a career advancement. And to give you some perspective on just how important career advancement is to people, and the reason that, so I described this as the most underutilized tool in the management toolbox, which is what I realized the CEO of my own company 10 years ago. 87% of millennials say that career advancement is either very or extremely important to them. 87%. It’s almost everyone. And that’s a huge wide demographic band. That’s basically everyone from age 25 to 40.It’s the most valuable part of the workforce arguably. Is the up and coming leaders or the new leaders and what they’re saying loud and clear, that’s a Gallup statistic by the way.

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: Is the career advancement is what they’re solving for. So obviously, there’s all kinds of discussions going on right now about how important mental health is. And it is important, but what people really want from, they’re not looking for jobs, they’re looking for career advancement. And that was something that through my time as a recruiter, that’s something that I learned very quickly is when most companies are looking for candidates for a job, there’s a disconnect because what most candidates are looking for is career advancement. So my pro to any HR managers who are struggling with recruitment is to make sure that part of the employment value proposition is career advancement. Don’t talk about, just about the job that you’re trying to fill, but what’s the next step after that? And it’s a discussion that I would often have with clients that they were surprised by, why are we talking about this?

We are focused on filling this one position. Why are we talking about what might be next for that person? And I knew it was because that’s what the candidate wanted to hear. And if we didn’t include that, then they were going to discount the role. So we’ve done some really interest. We’re involved in a career advancement research study with the University of Oxford right now, this is one of our initiatives. And we’ve got all kinds of statistics, data points coming from that. But one of the most interesting, this wasn’t part of the study, but we did a focus group with some young people and asked them about their views of different jobs based on whether the job included career advancement or not. And it’s 100% effectively of the group would be more inclined to take the job that offered career advancement or offered career advancement coaching as a standard part than the job that did not. All of the things being equal. That’s how important this is to ambitious young people. And these are the best people that every company wants to keep ahold of. Right?

William Tincup: Yes. And again, I did a similar study on millennials about five years ago, and it’s they asked three questions. And they were all HR questions. So it really threw off recruiters. And in so far as they asked what’s next? They asked how are you going to make me better? They, again, phraseology in terms of words all different, but how are you going to make me better? How are you going to skill me up? That type of stuff. And then third, how are you going to praise me? Or how are you going to recognize me? And so these are again, hardcore, hard boiled HR stuff, like internal mobility; rewards and recognition, and learning and development. These aren’t things that recruiters are skilled at answering these questions.

Steve: Right. And even a lot of managers.

William Tincup: Yeah.

Steve: It’s a skill in itself having this discussion without crushing someone’s spirit. So there’s…

William Tincup: Yeah.

Steve: It’s a tightrope for leaders really, because they’re trying to hope. They’re trying to inspire people on the one hand and hold them accountable on the other.

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: And those two the things don’t always go well together. And having the conversations about performance at the same time as rewards, it’s all… It’s very difficult for leaders these days which is why I think five, 10 years from now, this will be standard for people to have a career advancement coach who works independently with them to help them get the most from their career. You wouldn’t start playing golf for tennis without hiring a coach. Right?

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: But you embark on your career, which is so much of your future success and your financial security is bound up in your career. And very few people hire a coach. And if they do, it tends to be towards the… When they’re executive or their managerial level. So leadership coaching is very common. To coach people below that level is not. 90% of the dollars spent on coaching is spent at the VP level and above.

William Tincup: Yeah. High potentials, high performers, the executives.

Steve: Yeah. Companies are missing, they’re missing the bottom of the pyramid. And that’s where it’s where 90% of the value in the company comes from. And so that’s what we do is to work with the up and coming employees to help build what we call a culture of bottom up value creation. So we’re turning the traditional model of leadership on its head to say, what if everybody knew what they were solving for? What if instead of leaders going out and telling people what to do, everybody knew how they created value, and everybody could maximize their own value because that’s what you’re really solving for in terms of career advancement, right?

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: You need to focus on the value that you create for your employer and all the ways that you can do that.

William Tincup: In the military, especially during times of war, they call that clear intent. Everyone knows if we’re going to take that hill, everyone knows we’re going to take the hill.

Steve: Right. Fascinating. Yeah.

William Tincup: So everything’s been communicated. Everyone knows that’s top down, that’s bottom up. Everyone knows we’re doing, this is what we’re doing. And so people can then do things on their own because they know what the mission is, the objective is.

Steve: That’s a fantastic analogy because if you think about how complicated work is for just about anyone these days, it’s not, if you go back to the days of Adam Smith’s Pin Factory, his big insight was that if you took this whole process of making pins, if one person had to do every part of the process, I think there were 19 parts of the process. If one person did all 19 parts of the process, making pins, they could make 100 pins in a day. But if we split it up into 19 different processes and have one person focus on each one, we can make 10,000 pins a day. That was Adam Smith’s insight. But the problem is that we’ve really all gone back to be being the guy making pins in the pin factory from start to finish.

William Tincup: Yes.

Steve: And just in CareerPoint, we use 25 different technology platforms.And that’s the tip of the iceberg. We have to, every single person needs to be familiar with these 25 technology platforms. We’re using email, we’re using every, because we’re a distributed company and everyone’s working all around the world. It’s each person is completely autonomous and it is up to that person to figure out how best to add value in their role and to use the autonomy to best effect.

One analogy that I use for companies these days is that 20 years ago, companies used to be more like a cruise ship, where the leader was like the captain of the ship and they’re steering. And everyone’s on board and it’s up to the captain to decide where the ship is going. But nowadays, companies are more like in Armada of small boats. And anyone can go in their own direction if they choose to. Because they have so much autonomy built in. So it’s really important for people to know what they’re solving for so that they can get in their boat and go in a direction that’s helping the company, their colleagues, and their leaders.

William Tincup: So you had mentioned early on that you want to focus on, I believe I got this right, early stage folks or the… Let’s say the first seven years of one’s experience, so those folks. And also, if I heard this correctly disadvantaged. So folks that might not have, not just the level VP and above, but also just some statistically folks that maybe might not have the opportunity even regardless of level. So if I have that right, tell us a little bit about that.

Steve: Yeah. So you’ve probably known the statistics as well as I do, but women 20% underrepresented in leadership, African-Americans 30% underrepresented in management, Hispanic-Americans, 40% underrepresented in management. And there is a generational wisdom can component to this. So there was an article recently in HBR that talked about first generation professionals. And looking back, my colleague was probably in this category that, and I to an extent was myself because my father worked for the government. My mother was a college lecturer. They weren’t in traditional corporate environments and they wouldn’t have been well placed to explain to me how career advancement works. Whereas, if my parents had gone to Ivy League Schools and worked their way up in an investment bank, they could probably tell me exactly how things work and given me really good career advice. The vast majority of people studies have shown that 80%, 90% of young people don’t have someone that they consider a mentor at work.

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: They don’t have someone in their own. And advancing in your career is just like any other skill if you don’t have. So baking a cake is pretty straightforward as long as someone has shown you how to do it.

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: If someone has not shown you how to do it, and there’s no set of instructions and there’s no manual, it would be a disaster. You’d be like pouring in some flour. You’d be how many eggs do I use? Is it 3D? Is it 14? I don’t know. And so having someone to talk to who is an expert in this area is going to increase your chances of advancing in your career many times over.

William Tincup: It gets back to come full circle to the employee that helped kickstart this in your mind is had they had a mentor or someone that could give them advice?

Steve: Exactly, yeah. And before they joined us, they had worked us. It turned out, they had worked at a small company. I spent the first five years of my career with KPMG, the global accounting firm.

William Tincup: Yeah, of course.

Steve: And I didn’t even realize what that had done for my career aside from just giving me the skills.

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: It was an environment that was full of good role models and mentors that had structure. And there was a huge value to those things that I didn’t appreciate the time, but I appreciate now looking back. And not everyone start, the majority of us don’t start in that structured environment with those role models.

William Tincup: No. And again, now you’re dealing with privilege. So you’re kind of unpacking, you use the analogy of my parents went to great schools and they would’ve been there to give me great advice. So now it’s like, okay, your network where you grow up, how you grow up. And again, we kind of unpacking some of the layers of privilege. Folks that don’t come from the, so from any, however you want to define it, or any of the… It’s an onion. So any of the layers of privilege, if they don’t have that, how do they get that?

Steve: Exactly.

William Tincup: And, again, your experience with KPMG, you were thrown into a situation where at KPMG they invested a lot in their talent. They still do. They invest a lot in their talent and there’s always knowledge sharing and knowledge work, and learning, and career development. They care because it’s like, that’s how they retain talent.

Steve: Absolutely.

William Tincup: And so they do it, not out of philanthropically, they do it because it’s one hell of a retention strategy.

Steve: Yeah. And the big companies, I had a conversation with a fellow founder yesterday who began his career at Accenture and he told me that they have a career coach assigned to every member of staff. So the big companies have figured this out, and it’s not your boss. It’s a dedicated career coach who is independent and can give you that kind of advice. And most people don’t have that. Especially the 50% of people who work for smaller companies. And that’s the gap that we’re really trying to fill is to make sure that is to democratize career advancement and career advancement coaching, to make sure that anyone regardless of their background can benefit from it. So we’re working with big companies and their affinity groups to help solve customers.

William Tincup: ERGs and SIGs?

Steve: Yeah. So we’re doing workshops, we’re doing one-on-one virtual coaching to talk, to help companies and team leaders have these productive career advancement discussions with their teams because it’s a win-win. When a company can’t be successful, unless their people are successful.

William Tincup: That’s right.

Steve: And vice versa.

William Tincup: That’s right. And then thinking of it like this is a way to make them better. It’s also makes a way for us to be better by bringing in career coaches that are, have the best entry of the person they’re coaching in Mark. And two quicker questions. And they’re not quick, but two questions left. One, when prospects first see the CareerPoint platform, what do they fall in love with? What’s the, I call it aha moment, but there’s probably a better way to think of it. But what do they fall in love with?

Steve: Honestly, it’s our methodology. So it’s very common when we’re having the first conversation with an executive or an HR manager, HRD. They see our framework and how we talk about value creation. We break it down into kin of its atomic elements and it’s what people come back to time and time again. So it’s really common in that first discussion for the client to say someone else in my company needs to see this.

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: It might be the team leaders. It might be the C-suite. Sometimes it’s the HR department. And it’s not because they don’t get it, experienced HR professionals and managers get it right away. They’ve just never seen it explained this way. And it brings a level of clarity to the career advancement discussion that really helps everyone get on the same page. And our entire model is about how employees create shared value for their company as a means to advance in their careers. And it just makes sense. And that’s what people say. Our coaching is rated 4.8 to five by the employees who’ve been through our coaching. The number that report having a well defined career plan increases by 100%; 64% of employees report increased personal effectiveness, 80% report increased job satisfaction, 50% report a higher level of impact on company performance.

And that’s only from a few coaching sessions, which I think is hard for people to believe but it’s kind of what we work on is the employee’s mindset. We work on creating the win-win relationships and we work on this idea of value creation, and we show them where the opportunities are for them to add value, and why. So you could think of this as they say, if you give someone a fish they’ll eat for a day, but if you teach them to fish, they can, they’ll eat for life. That we’re really teaching people to fish here. So we’re teaching the meta skills of career advancement that will stay with someone throughout their career. Just as if they’d had really good advice from someone, from a trusted family member early on in their career. It’s something that’s going to pay off forever.

William Tincup: We’ll go ahead and predict the future because I feel like it. Some of the folks that are on the receiving end of this wonderful advice and just having someone independent, be able to analyze things, give them advice, et cetera, they’ll be future coaches.

Steve: Absolutely. We hope so. And so we spend a lot of our time training and in certifying CareerPoint coaches too. So if anyone listening is interested in coaching and mentoring, ambitious professionals, helping us achieve our mission to level the playing field, please reach out and get in touch. But it’s a… That’s the part of my job that I enjoy the most is just speaking to people about career advancement, about how it works and really creating an army that can take this mission forward.

William Tincup: I love it. Last question. It’s more tactical, but I need to ask you this. When you’re dealing with prospects that are, yeah, this is new for. So what questions should they be asking to you or about CareerPoint?

Steve: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think the one that I would always come back to it’s the way I looked at it when I see you for many years is what’s the ROI here and what’s the mechanism? And I think of all things, this is just a no brainer in terms of ROI. The studies show that coaching generally has a 200% ROI. That’s from the International Coaching Federation, which credit it’s our coach training course. But there’s so many components to the value proposition for CareerPoint coaching. There’s the increase in engagement Gallup has shown that 55% of millennials are disengaged at work. That’s a scary statistic. And when you look at the cost of it, it’s roughly a third of the overall cost of employment, the benefits of diversity, which is just so important for companies to focus on.

And diversity just doesn’t mean just hiring the right people. It means promoting the right people and giving them a fair opportunity to advance. And that’s what we are all about in terms of retention. Retention, the discussion about retention is really a discussion about career advancement. And from my experience in recruitment, one of the things that I learned is that what drives someone to leave a job is oftentimes not the lack of promotion so much as the pessimism. So they don’t see the roadmap. They don’t see, they don’t understand what the opportunities are. They haven’t been willing to have the discussions and they feel overlooked because they don’t have the tools to be able to do that.

William Tincup: Right.

Steve: And so by giving them the tools, we’re increasing the likelihood that they initiate the conversation that is going to lead to the company getting a better work product from them. And to them sticking around instead of leaving to find the career advancement that they create. Right?

William Tincup: Right, so everyone wins. Literally, everyone wins.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. That’s our whole thing is it has to be a win-win and because the company has to have a reason to promote you. And this is right. So it’s really the decision at the end of the day is up to the company. You can do your best, but it has to be a two-sided conversation, which is why our client, we often complement our coaching work with members of the team, with workshops, for the team leaders, so that everyone has the same language and the same lens on the career advancement discussion, and so that they can maximize the win-win.

But it’s that even aside from those hard benefits and hard components of ROI, if you like, I think the benefit in terms of culture it’s the easy button for an improvement in company culture. Because the culture, everyone contributes to the culture. That’s culture isn’t something that’s just handy down by the leadership, but something that everyone contributes to. And that’s something that we focus on a lot in our coaching is what’s your contribution to the culture? And how to have a deliberately positive impact on the company culture. So if you have a team of 10 people and suddenly everyone’s taking responsibility for having a good culture, that’s a really powerful change.

William Tincup: It is a huge change. And I have to tell you, Steve, I love what you’ve built. And I love the origin story of how you got here. There’s so oftentimes, especially in entrepreneurship, in work tech, HR tech, recruit tech is you’ll find people that are just opportunistic. They’ll see something and then they want to then build something around it. They didn’t work the job. They don’t really know what the job’s about. And they just, it’s opportunism, which is fine. Some value comes from that, but I love that you’ve done all this stuff and you’ve had this personal experience. And you’re trying to help people not have the same personal experience that you have. And you’re trying to help a group of people, both at a level and shape to help them, again, further their careers. So bless you. I just love what you’ve built and I appreciate you coming on the Use Case Podcast.

Steve: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time

Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform and hit us up at recruitingdaily.com.

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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