Will debt-free college make Chipotle the place to work in the restaurant biz?
Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced that it is adding a new perk to its employee education benefits package — debt-free college degrees.
The restaurant chain, which has provided over $20 million in tuition assistance to employees over the past two years as part of its Chipotle Cultivate Education benefits program, will now cover 100 percent of tuition costs for 75 different business and technology degrees through a partnership with Guild Education, an educational benefits firm.
The goal of the program is to give employees opportunities to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the current job market. Chipotle employees will be eligible for the program after 120 days on the jobs. They will be able to earn degrees from participating non-profit universities, including The University of Arizona, Bellevue University, Brandman University, Southern New Hampshire University and Wilmington University.
Marissa Andrada, chief people officer at the chain, said Chipotle “recognizes that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles that impede our employees from achieving their fullest potential.” The goal of the new program is “to help our employees excel in all areas in their lives, both in and out of Chipotle.”
The chain’s current Cultivate Education program allows eligible employees to be reimbursed up to $5,250 a year at a school of their choosing.
Chipotle says it has found that employees in the program are more likely to stay with the company and be promoted. Management reports that it promoted more than 13,000 employees last year and hopes to build on that number with investments such as the new debt-free college perk. Chipotle, which operates more than 2,500 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the UK, employs more than 80,000 workers across its business.
Chipotle’s program is part of a broader trend among retail and restaurant industry employers to use education perks as a worker recruitment and retention tool. Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, McDonald’s, Sheetz and Walmart are among those that have announced new educational initiatives in recent years.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important are educational benefits in helping retailers and restaurants to recruit and retain their best employees? In what specific ways might Chipotle’s educational initiatives improve the chain’s overall performance?