business news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart said yesterday that it is introducing “a new associate education benefit designed to remove barriers to college enrollment and graduation.”

“In partnership with Guild Education, a leading education benefits platform, Walmart associates will be able to access affordable, high-quality associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Business or Supply Chain Management,” the company said. “Under the program, which will be made available to all Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club associates, Walmart will subsidize the cost of higher education, beyond financial aid and an associate contribution equivalent to $1 a day. Degrees will be offered through the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University – nonprofit schools selected for their focus and strong outcomes on serving working adult learners.”

“Investing in the personal and professional success of our associates is vital to Walmart’s future success. We know training and learning opportunities empower associates to deliver for customers while growing and advancing in their careers,” said Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S.

CNBC writes that “the news of this program comes as many businesses in the U.S. today face a tighter labor market, and competition for the best talent is intensifying. Chains like Starbucks and Chipotle have started offering similar education perks to get workers to stick around.”

And, in its analysis, the Atlantic writes, “The move to help its employees go to college looks good for a company that has been pilloried over the years for its low wages, lack of room for career growth, and stingy benefits. That cocktail has made it hard for the mega-chain one-stop shop to retain its workers. But it has tried to change in recent months, boosting its base-pay by $2 to $11 per hour and expanding its family benefits—maternity leave, in particular, which went from six to 10 weeks of paid leave. Offering tuition assistance to employees is another step toward making the company more worker-friendly.”
KC's View:
I like this a lot, especially because it reflects Walmart’s recognition of what is going on generally at retail - employees are harder to come by, and so companies are having to find new and innovative ways to find and keep them. Educating them is a huge benefit.

I continue to believe that the other education-related benefit that retailers could adopt is to offer employees some level of college loan payoff assistance. These loans are an onerous burden on many young people, affecting their ability to buy homes and cars, have children, and do all the things that represent economic investments that help drive the country forward. Offer that, and companies become employers of choice.