Starbucks is testing a pilot program that allows employees to get their full salary and benefits while serving at nonprofit organizations in their communities half of each work week, the company announced Thursday.
The six-month test of the Starbucks Service Fellows program includes 36 employees in 13 cities, in partnership with nonprofit volunteer organization Points of Light.
The three dozen employees in the program were selected following a “competitive application process,” according to a company announcement.
“Starbucks partners consistently share with us their passion for service both in and out of their stores,” said Virginia Tenpenny, vice president of Global Social Impact for Starbucks and executive director of The Starbucks Foundation, in a statement. “The Service Fellows program powers that passion through philanthropy and partnerships to have the greatest impact. Our Service Fellows program is an innovative approach that combines work, service, and partnerships, a model that will inform how we catalyze our partners and grantees to create enduring change in our communities.”
In a tight labor market, the coffee giant hopes the program will boost employee recruitment and retention.
When workers are “engaged in communities and they feel connected, they’re going to stay with Starbucks longer,” Tenpenny told CNN.
Through a grant from The Starbucks Foundation, Points of Light is administering the program, including providing stipends to fellows for their time and grants to the hosting nonprofit organizations.
It’s estimated that the 36 Starbucks employees in the trial program will provide more than 17,000 hours of community service to organizations that support the environment, military families, young people, refugees and more, the company said.
A number of restaurant brands have sought to foster employee volunteerism in recent years as a way to recruit workers—particularly millennials—who value community service and social responsibility. Denny’s, for example, lists volunteer hours as an employment perk on its jobs page.