They're two of the giants of American entrepreneurship, but you might not think of Amazon and Starbucks as competitors.

But both of these massive Seattle-based companies have to hire thousands and thousands of people every year--and then train them and try to keep the best of them on staff.

Earlier this month, Amazon unveiled its new $15-an-hour minimum wage across all U.S. employees, an initiative that will cost the company billions, but that employees seem to absolutely love.

Now, Starbucks has unveiled a smaller, but potentially more creative way to attract and retain employees.

This week, the coffee house giant announced it will provided subsidized emergency backup child and adult care to employees, via a partnership with the website Care.com.

The details:

  • All 180,000 U.S. employees (Starbucks calls its employees "partners") get a free premium membership to Care.com, which normally goes for about $150 a year.
  • They then pay $1 an hour for in-home backup child or adult care or $5 per a day per child for in-center child care, for up to 10 backup care days. (Beyond this, they can continue to use the Care.com membership to get child care and other services at the regular cost.)
  • Additionally, employees (sorry, "partners") can connect with Starbucks-sponsored Senior Care Advisors, who offer assistance in finding adult care if needed.

Of course, Starbucks gains a business benefit out of this beyond recruiting, in that a staggering number of people say they've had to skip work or leave jobs altogether as a result of child care or elder care issues.

In 2016, Starbucks reports, citing a study by the National Survey of Children's Health, more than two million people had to quit work outright because of child care issues. And 70 percent of workers said they've had to take time off from work "or make other work adjustments because of caregiving."

Illustrating the need, the company told the story of one of its employees, a shift supervisor named Jessica Strubhar, who added a four-hour round trip drive to her parents' house to her daily routine when her kids' child care fell through and she needed help in taking care of them for the day.

It's exactly the kind of emergency situation the program is designed to help remedy.

Of course, a 10-day-a-year solution isn't a complete solution. But as an affordable stopgap measure, it's a pretty good idea. 

And it's a rarity among employers too. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, only 2 percent of employers help employees pay for child care fees, and only 4 percent offer backup child care services like what Starbucks is offering here.

Your move, Amazon.

Published on: Oct 14, 2018
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