Starbucks, Whole Foods Are Incomparable
By George Anderson
When most companies in retail discuss their employee wage and benefit programs, they talk in terms of offering packages that are comparable to what others in the industry are doing.
For companies such as Starbucks, Whole Foods and others, comparable is not enough. These companies make programs such as company-paid health insurance available to a wider percentage of employees in the effort to recruit a more professional workforce and to reduce turnover.
Amy Schaefer, a spokesperson for Whole Foods, told The Providence Journal, “It’s important that, as we continue to grow, that we continue to attract the types of team members we want to help serve our shoppers,” Schaefer said. “We want team members to be knowledgeable and excited about the food we sell, because without them, we would be unable to serve our shoppers.”
Louisa Conze, a college graduate who has worked as a barista at Starbucks for four years, said, “I’ve worked for other companies that wouldn’t give you benefits unless you are salaried. It (Starbucks) seemed like a great place to work during a transitionary period, but it turned out to be a great place to stay.”
Ms. Conze said the company’s treatment of its employees benefits Starbucks and its customers. “Any employee at any job is going to do a better job because the company cares about them. We’re all very happy to be here because of that attitude.”
John Barry, Starbucks’ district manager for Rhode Island, said, “I think the benefits are a huge draw. It’s part of the commitment we make to all our employees.”
Mr. Barry admits that the high cost of providing healthcare coverage is a challenge even for businesses as large as Starbucks.
“I think it’s the biggest challenge we face today,” he said. “The escalating cost is more of a challenge than ever. The cost of a cup of coffee includes more to cover health-care expenses than the cost of the coffee beans and other components of the product itself.”
Edward M. Mazze, dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island, said many businesses faced with the rising cost of healthcare have either had to reduce work hours (making fewer employees eligible for company-pad benefits) or increase the premiums paid by workers to participate in a plan.
This is especially true, he said, when it comes to smaller businesses. “Every company with four or five employees basically has one employee who doesn’t have to show up. That extra employee is someone who doesn’t have to show up for his job because he’s the health-insurance premium.”
Moderator’s Comment: Will retailers need to find more (perhaps expensive) ways to attract and retain employees if they wish to remain successful in the
future? Are companies in retail and elsewhere doing a thorough enough cost/benefit analysis to determine if these actions might be “penny wise and pound foolish?” –
George Anderson – Moderator