February 18, 2020

Still Having a Hard Time Finding Employees? Let’s Talk About Education

By Paul Bieber

Let’s look at who you’re competing against in hiring young workers, some right out of high school or some trade school or college folks. What do they want? The first is still medical benefits, this may come in second.

Start with Home Depot. They have 2,284 stores in North America, employing over 400,000 people and plan to hire about 80,000 people for their busy springtime season. Wow. What is their ace-in-the-hole to hire these folks when we can’t seem to hire one person? Home Depot stresses their education reimbursement plan. They offer, on the first day of employment, $1,500 to part-time hourly employees, $3,000 to full-time hourly folks and $5,000 for salaried people. That sure is a great enticement for young workers.

Next is Walmart, the largest employer in the U.S. with roughly 1,400,000 people. They have a plan whereby employees can pay one dollar per day, or $365 per year to get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and two other universities.

How about making French fries at McDonalds? The fast-food giant employs about 400,000 people in the U.S. Eligible employees get $2,500 per year and managers get $3,000 for education. I don’t know what eligible people means, but I am guessing they have to be there an amount of time before the education program kicks in.

How do you compete for talent when these programs are out there? It’s easy. Offer a program that fits your employee base for retention purposes and to help in hiring new folks. It should cover some or all parts of tuition for programs that benefit your company. Maybe a technical school or a computer-usage related education. Our company had a program where we paid a fixed amount of the college costs, 75% for an A in the course, 60% for a B and 50% for a C. We also paid 100% for courses in English as a second language. The only rule we had was that the course needed to be approved in advance by management. We were fairly liberal in our approval and approved just about anything that would get an employee’s mind to be more active. Also, by tying the program to a grade, we didn’t pay until the course was finished. Occasionally, if an employee couldn’t cover the up-front costs, we would advance the fees and hope we made a good investment.

You are a winner in every way with an education program. Your employees become smarter, they will be proud that you sponsored them and they will tend to stay with you longer.

By the way, be sure to have a graduation party when an employee finishes a course of study. It is a great morale booster.