Forget HR! I’m Going to Work For Starbucks!

By now you’ve seen or heard the interview with Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, stating that they are increasing the benefit in their college tuition plan. Schultz says that, “By giving our employees partners (see what he did there) access to four years of full tuition coverage, we provide them with a critical tool for a lifelong opportunity.”

Now you take this program, coupled with the company’s commitment to providing healthcare, stock options, etc., it sounds like brewing coffee and helping to wake up the proverbial dead on their way to work every morning is the gig to have! I don’t know what being a barista entails, but I’d definitely be willing to give it a try if it meant that I could:

  1. Pay my bills
  2. Not have to stress about dying if I ever caught a cold
  3. Further my education without having debt that will outlive me

I would love to see what their retention numbers are looking like these days.

The concern for other companies however becomes how we keep up when thriving companies are doing all of this cool stuff; free tuition, nap pods in the office, telecommuting, etc. When you’re just making ends meet as a company, the absolute last thing you’re probably thinking about is what “perk” I can hand out to make us look cool. It’s like the old “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” question:

Do we offer out-of-this-world stuff to attract, keep and make our employees productive or do we reward them with all of that stuff after they’ve been productive?

I don’t really have the answer to that as it totally depends on the type of industry you’re in, location, type of employees, all kinds of stuff. And I’m not saying that in order to be competitive or cutting edge that they have to break the bank in the name of employee engagement. I’m saying that if you want employees to feel like they belong, like they’re being listened to and that their needs are being considered by their employer, we have to do just that…consider their needs.

What happens too often when something seems difficult or undoable, the decision maker throws their hands in the air and says, “Can’t happen!” as opposed to “What would that look like?” When the initiative or COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) seems to cost more than the bank account may allow, we usually hear, “It’s too expensive, what else ya got?” as opposed to “I like that idea, can we tweak it and come up with a cost effective alternative or middle ground for now?”

Maybe It Is The Thought That Counts

employee_incentives_and_bonusesWhat impresses me about Starbucks and this program is not that they’re paying for school, but that the topic of helping their employees even came up. Are you having those conversations in your boardroom? Or did you just form a committee to come up with a banquet and to purchase VISA gift cards?

Flowers die and gift cards run out…just sayin’.

Truth is most employees would be thrilled to even know that a President or CEO took the time to consider doing something for them…even if it couldn’t necessarily happen. Feeling like an employer is going to bat for them makes a huge difference in the way employees view the company. And those considerations and those thoughts go much further than just throwing some empty, non-relevant award someone’s way.

Once organizations decide they want to make a positive impact in the lives of those that keep it afloat, it becomes easy to break the mold with incentives or programs that improve quality of life…without necessary breaking the bank. When “perks” and “investing in our employees” go from being an agenda item to a core value, these programs become something that everyone wants to see happen, something that everyone will make work and something that employee, employer, organization and consumer can all benefit from.

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