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Does employee education boost retention? Chick-fil-A has proof

The chicken chain surveyed past beneficiaries of its scholarship program and found 90% intend to keep working there even after they earn a degree.
Photograph: Shutterstock

reality check

New research from Chick-fil-A dashes the old employer fear that educating restaurant employees will only make them more likely to search for better-paying jobs elsewhere.

The high-flying chicken chain announced Wednesday that it plans to pump another $15.3 million into its in-house scholarship program, which provides employees with up to $25,000 in tuition assistance. The increased funding will be distributed to 6,000 employees during 2019.

To date, 53,000 employees have been given $75 million to further their educations. Chick-fil-A says the program is one of the largest of its kind, and no one’s refuting that claim.

What kind of return is the brand seeing from that investment? The company surveyed past scholarship recipients last year and found that 90% intend to keep working for Chick-fil-A even after they earn a degree. The employees could bail, since there’s no requirement that they stay on the chain’s payroll. But, the research emphatically demonstrates, they’d rather stick around.

Not surprisingly, 99.6% of the recipients described the scholarships as a major employment benefit. Three out of five (60%) said they wouldn’t have been able to attend college without the assistance, and one of those three (20% of the total) indicated they were the first in their families to continue their educations beyond high school.

The research comes to light as many large chains are embracing education assistance as a way of attracting and retaining top-caliber employees. Similar programs are currently being offered by Starbucks, McDonald’s, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Taco Bell, among others.

As long as employers have managed a payroll, some have voiced fears that training or—God forbid—actually paying for a higher degree would only open the door to opportunities outside the organization. Chick-fil-A’s survey clearly says otherwise.

The chain did not reveal how many of the 53,000 past recipients were surveyed last year.

This year’s program kicked off Tuesday at Chick-fil-A’s chainwide annual conference. Twelve employees were called to the stage—and then surprised with $25,000 checks for their education.


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