Attraction and retention: Starbucks’ win-win plan to send its employees to college

by Amanda Plachte

I would like a vanilla latte, a blueberry scone and a job application, please.


This fall Starbucks will give its employees the opportunity of a lifetime with a generous tuition assistance program: the College Achievement Plan. The Seattle-based coffee company believes that supporting its employees’ ambitions is the best investment it can make. Approximately 70 percent of its employees are students or aspire to be students and knowing that money is not the only barrier preventing young adults from pursuing their dreams, every benefits-eligible employee in the United States will qualify to take advantage of the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree online. Offering 40 undergraduate degrees, Starbucks made this possible by teaming up with Arizona State University.

The catch?

Those taking advantage of the program are required to carry out their dreams and graduate. That is it. Of course, each participant has to meet all the same admissions requirements as any incoming student would, but there is no obligation for the employees to remain with Starbucks post-graduation. Starbucks genuinely wants its employees to excel in school and at life.

I think Starbucks really hit the jackpot in this employee relations initiative. Not only does this make the company’s external image beam with positivity, but clearly, Starbucks is a great place to work too. Although it did not make the 2014 list, the company came in at No. 94 on the 2013 Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and No. 73 on the 2012 list.

Howard Schultz , Starbuck’s CEO, believes the company and the country will be well-served by the education initiative. In an article on the company’s website, Overcoming the ‘Fractured’ American Dream: Childhood Experiences Shape the Actions of Two Leaders, Schultz explains, “This is going to give our partners hope, opportunity and the freedom to believe in themselves and their careers for the long term. …The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is part of the answer to the question ‘what is the role and responsibility of a public company,’ and for me it demonstrates the heart and the conscience of Starbucks.”

In this Mashable article, Starbucks Plans to Send Its Employees to College for Free, author Adario Strange reports that Schultz told the New York Times, “I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people.”

Happy employees = happy customers = happy profits

In the article, Wall Street Won’t Tell You About Starbucks’ Magic Bullet, author Ted Cooper addresses Starbucks’ success in employee satisfaction and how it compares to competitor Dunkin’ Donuts. In an attempt to replicate the Starbucks atmosphere, the Massachusetts-based brand has improved its customer experience by adding comfortable seating, relaxing music and places to linger but this is only half of the problem. In order to provide great customer service, employees must be happy, motivated and inspired.

Cooper also points out that Starbucks receives high marks for compensation and benefits too. Health insurance is a cornerstone of Starbucks’ employee compensation packages. Even after admitting that the Affordable Care Act might increase the company’s insurance costs, Schultz said he had a responsibility to keep providing health insurance for his company’s workers. In addition to generous health benefits, Starbucks employees may receive bonuses, 401(k) matching and a free pound of coffee each week. Dunkin’ Brands’ compensation and benefits are tied for the lowest-ranked component in an employee satisfaction survey. Considering that compensation forms the basis of most employees’ attitudes toward a company, the low rating speaks volumes about Dunkin’ Brands’ employee satisfaction.

Health insurance, education and free coffee? Oh, my!

What other companies have high employee satisfaction? Let us know what you think! Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest.

Image via Time


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