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Wake up and smell the coffee

I recently read an interesting article on Absence Management. In short, the author documented the high cost of employee absenteeism and the relatively low cost of incentives to keep employees on the job. The incentives included "banking" sick days, offering health insurance and short- or long-term disability insurance, and a menu of other perks for those employees who show up for work.

The foodservice industry has fought this battle for years. My philosophy about the true cost of employee turnover is well documented. My solution is simple: I'd rather have five people at $15/hour than 15 people at $5/hour. Five highly skilled employees can get the job done — and they won't be looking for another job when they're making 20% over market rates and are receiving benefits.

While the evidence seems irrefutable, I know plenty of operators who insist that they cannot afford to change. The article cited above and a recent personal experience prompts me to give yet another case history to try and convert the non-believers.

With a large state college sitting in the middle of our quaint downtown, we have more than our share of coffee houses, including a Starbucks, within a six block area. So I was surprised to see a prime corner location post a sign announcing that Pete's Coffee would be opening soon. I was even more surprised to read their "Help Wanted" sign offering a 401K package, paid vacations, medical and dental insurance and other benefits... for hourly employees!

Soon after they opened I received a postcard offering a free half-pound of coffee and went down with a friend to check it out. In a word it was "remarkable." The quality of the service, the attitude and knowledge of the employees, the overall experience truly was worth remarking about. And that's just what my friend did. When we walked out, he said to me, "Can you believe that?"

The coffee is expensive—almost $3.00 per lb. higher than what I'd been buying—and the parking is a pain. But I went back and I've continued to go back. 50% of my reason is the product, which is noticeably better. But the other 50% is my curiosity about whether Peet's can keep it up. Each time I go, I think the bubble will burst, but it doesn't. These employees aren't just great, they're remarkable. And that's worth three bucks a pound to me, and a whole lot more to Peet's.

We've compiled some resources to help you afford the change, and make it possible for even the smallest organizations to offer employee benefits.

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