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The Best Looking Benefit They'll Never Use - Tuition Aid...

I'm on the record as saying there's a couple of ways to compete for the a Best Place to Work award.  Here's the playbook:

1. The easy part - write a check for benefits others can't or won't provide.

2. The hard part - Become world class in how you make your people more productive and happier while you squeeze more out of them. Crowded-studying

The first part is the easy part - as Ferris Bueller once said, "if you have the means..."  The second part is hard as hell.  

An ever better way to engage the first part - benefits others can't or won't provide - is to pick one that looks great but is hard to use. Example - Tuition aid.  It looks great, but it's hard as ##@# for busy adults to use.  That's why Starbucks could see their way clear to offer it via online courses to all associates.  Of course, there are some strings. 

First, the offer from Starbucks via a breakdown in the LA Times:

"The Seattle coffee giant announced this week it is helping employees who enroll in Arizona State University's online bachelor's degree programs for all four years. The company said it would provide full tuition reimbursement to juniors and seniors, and that freshman and sophomores would be eligible for a partial scholarship and other financial aid.

The assistance is open to employees who work at least 20 hours a week in any company-operated store, Starbucks said, regardless of how long they've been with the company.

Days later, however, the coffee purveyor clarified that scholarships to workers in their freshman and sophomore years were provided by ASU, not Starbucks. Company spokeswoman Jaime Riley said those students will get scholarships from ASU that will cover about 22% of tuition for their first two years.

Starbucks is assisting its workers who qualify as juniors and seniors, but that help comes with a long list of caveats.

The coffee company will reimburse students for any tuition that is paid out of pocket or that is covered by loans. However, Starbucks will only pay out an initial lump sum to juniors and seniors after they earn 21 credits. Additional reimbursements will be dispensed in 21-credit increments as well. The money is paid once a year in an employee's paycheck, Riley said."

Tagline - Hard as hell, people.  More on the general usage of Tuition Aid in the industry from The Atlantic:

"But as some have noted, this also is a savvy PR move. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement as a way to recruit and retain staff. But the benefits are used, on an average, by fewer than one in 10 workers: only 3.9% of retailers’ staffs, the sector that includes Starbucks, take advantage of tuition reimbursement, the lowest of any sector tracked by EdLink, a leading supplier of employer tuition reimbursement programs.

By comparison, 6.1% of Fortune 500 companies workers took a class on the company, 8.0% of health care workers—and in a few individual companies, one in five workers took classes that their bosses underwrote. Even at the best organizations for staff development, chosen by Training magazine, only 8% of eligible workers took college courses paid by the company."

It's a great benefit, but it's not going to apply to everyone.  That's the best type for any company, because it still attracts candidates who like to think they'll go back to school at some point in the future.

Well played, Starbucks.  I'm not hating, it's a smart play.

HR pros - take note.  This is from the gold level playbook of maximizing buzz and brand, but limiting financial exposure.

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