Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, made an announcement last year to Starbucks “partners” (their term for Starbucks associates), that in partnership with Arizona State University, they would offer eligible associates the opportunity to finish a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement.
Since the announcement, there have been arguments on each side of the fence — naysayers have stated it was a PR ploy with a low risk because historically, deals of this nature are not taken advantage of by those to whom its offered, while supporters stated it was just one more way Starbucks was showing its associates they were valued and appreciated.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on, Howard Schultz’ quote in a CNN report about the program resonates:
“It’s going to cost millions of dollars, but I don’t view it as a cost. I view it as an investment.”
And that’s exactly why all companies should have associate development programs — because doing so proves to your associates you are not only invested in their success at your company, you are invested in their personal success.
Associate development will look different based on company and role. As with any company program, it would be best to have a program committee that ensures the wider group of associates is equally represented in the way the program is outlined. For instance, will you allot a certain amount of dollars to each associate and have them propose how they would use it to advance in their work? Will associates fill out a request form to say why they want to get involved in an association and what the return will be to fellow associates and the company? There is a wide variety of ways associates can be supported in a growth development program; a few examples include:
1) Association involvement
2) Accreditation programs
3) Seminar/Workshop attendance
4) Continued education
5) Webinars or one-off classes
Two Rivers Marketing shows associates support in a variety of ways — providing funding for seminar sessions like Confab, industry associations like Public Relations Society of America and American Advertising Federation, as well as funding support for continued education at universities.
As with any investment, there is risk. You aren’t guaranteed associates will take those additional skills they acquire and put them to use at your company for the long-term. But for every risk, there is also reward.
Showing your associates that you are invested in their personal and professional growth instills a stronger sense of loyalty, so while not guaranteed, those valuable connections and skills gained in their continued learning or association involvement will likely be put to good use for your company for the long run.
That’s a strong return on investment.