Starbucks created great fanfare around an interesting announcement this week regarding a new benefit to it's employees.
A free college education via The Starbucks Achievement Plan.
Now certainly Starbucks isn't the first to offer tuition reimbursement by any means. Nor is it the first to use an internal policy to get external press. But I do believe they are the first (in recent memory anyway) to put a new spin on it and really promote it. The CEO did a press tour and even appeared on The Daily Show.
Here's what I love: the company supports its employees, consistently. Employee relations is a core brand value and the CEO drives the agenda and the execution. We've seen it before on other societal issues like marriage equality, gun control, and even tax reform. The CEO sticks his neck out on issues that affect the world of his people. Now he's tackling the ability to access and pay for a college education.
Here's what's unique: an exclusive partnership with an online college, Arizona State University. Never seen that before.
Now the critics are poking holes in the choice of online college, the exclusivity, the fact that you have to work 20 hours a week to be eligible, the requirement to be in your third year of college, etc, etc.
There are always going to be critics, but I believe this is a bold move that is going to set a trend. The data is on their side: the company has a legion of employees who have started college and haven't finished. And that's the issue: many many students start college and then run out of steam and money. This move is giving them easy access and funding to finish, driving loyalty to their employer in the process.
I think it's brilliant internal partnership marketing that will help with employee retention and recruiting as well as elevating the stature of the brand. Isn't that what a good employee relations program is supposed to do?
What's your experience? Jim.