Retailers can let dreams thrive

July 01, 2014

Will other chains soon need to implement employee retention and growth programs a la Starbucks?

Is it time to call Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz the Chief Dream Officer of retail?  He knows how to keep dreams alive for legions of Millennials who serve Espressos and Frappuccinos at his chain - while many aspire to more meaningful careers in business and elsewhere.

He does this in three ways:  

  • First, like Costco, Starbucks pays workers hourly rates higher than most retailers.  
  • Second, the company has been liberal with health coverage. 
  • Third, its newest initiative starts this autumn - the Starbucks College Achievement Plan will reimburse tuition costs for workers completing online courses towards a Bachelor’s Degree at Arizona State University.  This link explains the details.  One of the coolest aspects, we feel at The Lempert Report, is the additional support the chain plans to give – a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor and academic advisor.

This is a wise corporate investment for several reasons, we believe: It can help qualify the chain’s next wave of managers, as it continues to expand all its marquee names.  It could lessen staff turnover, which is notoriously high in retail.  And it is an assist people won’t forget; even employees that leave the chain, degrees in hand for other work, could be richer for their Starbucks experience and become willing long-term customers. 

The Lempert Report encourages other retailers to absorb Schultz’s recent enlightened comments to ABC News:  “Surround yourself with great people and great big dreams.  And don’t let anyone – your family, your friends, anyone – tell you dreams can’t come true.  And at the end of the day ensure the fact that you’re sharing success with the people you work with.”

Once workers realize other employers may covet their retail skills, retention and growth efforts like these will be more necessary.  According to a TRIB Total Media story, banks such as PNC Bank covet the skills of good retail workers “who can [develop relationships and] balance the drive for automation in banking with a human touch.”