Tuition, Teslas and time off: What businesses are doing to keep, attract employees

·5-min read

Labor Day has come and gone, and with it, so have summer vacations. It’s back to non-stop work for most of us until the holiday season hits.

Between planned getaways and working remotely during the ongoing pandemic, workplaces across the country have sat empty for months, and labor shortages are more common than ever.

As of Sept. 1, security company Kastle Systems estimates that offices in 10 major cities were only 31.6% occupied, a figure that has slowly ticked upward since February.

Hoping to encourage staff to return to offices and bring in new employees, businesses are getting creative with the perks and amenities they offer.

One investment company, Manhattan’s Nuveen, caused quite a buzz after placing two beehives on outdoor terraces at their Third Avenue office last month as reported by The New York Times, citing their employees’ renewed connection with nature spurred by months of indoor lockdowns. Nuveen also installed new high-tech virtual golf simulators for those who want to get back on the green.

It doesn’t stop with bees, though. Here are five things businesses are doing to sway staffers to return to their offices, attract new employees, or cope with burnout.

Insane Giveaways

Want $10,000 or a new Tesla? Think about starting a career with real estate company CoStar. To safely lure staffers back to the office this year, the group raffled off some truly impressive prizes including luxury vacations, $10,000 in cash, and, you guessed it, a Model S Tesla, first reported by the New York Post.

Only employees who worked in the office could participate in the giveaways, and they also had to be vaccinated, the Post reported.

Mental Health Days

On Aug. 30, Nike closed its headquarters for a week to give employees some downtime.

“Enjoy additional time off to rest and recover,” Nike said in a statement about its closure.

Not a bad way to spend the end of the summer.

Tuition Assistance

Last month, Target announced a new initiative that let its 340,000 U.S.-based part-time and full-time frontline team members sign up for a debt-free education assistance program, vowing to spend $200 million in the next four years with more than 40 participating schools, colleges, and universities.

“Beginning this fall, all part-time and full-time team members working in Target stores, distribution centers and headquarters locations in the U.S. will be eligible for debt-free assistance for select undergraduate degrees, certificates, certifications, free textbooks and more with no out-of-pocket costs on their first day of work at Target,” a press statement from the retail giant read.

Employees who choose to enroll in programs not specifically covered by the program are still eligible to participate. Target said it would provide “direct payments to their academic institution of up to $5,250 for non-master's degrees and up to $10,000 for master’s degrees each year to reduce the burden of up-front, costly tuition payments.”

Amazon will also cover 100% of college tuition costs for more than 750,000 U.S. hourly workers, promising to spend a whopping $1.2 billion by 2025.

An announcement on the company’s website said Amazon will “fund full college tuition, as well as high school diplomas, GEDs, and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency certifications for its front-line employees” for employees who have been with the company for at least three months.

“Amazon is now the largest job creator in the U.S., and we know that investing in free skills training for our teams can have a huge impact for hundreds of thousands of families across the country,” said Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon. “Today, over 50,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in Career Choice and we’ve seen first-hand how it can transform their lives."

The moves followed a similar announcement from Walmart in which the company vowed to invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years in career-driven training and development for its employees.

Other large retailers offer similar programs, including Home Depot, Starbucks, and Apple.

Minimum Wage Hikes

More and more companies are foregoing the federal minimum wage of $7.25, and instead, raising the floor on their starting wages.

Since last year, retailers Best Buy, Target, Wayfair, and Wells Fargo increased their minimum hourly salaries to $15, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s settled on $18.13, and Costco employees now start off at $16. Several other companies have promised to raise their minimum hourly wages by next year, including Starbucks, Walgreens, and Bank of America.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said he believes boosting wages helps his business, explaining that it’s a “good investment to make because if we care for our partners and invest in them, they create that customer connection, and if customer connection scores go up, we know customers visit Starbucks more frequently.”

Generous Sign-on Bonuses

Who doesn’t need a little extra money? Employers are betting on doling out generous bonuses to new employees who come to work for them.

Sign-on bonuses are everywhere, and they drastically range in dollar figures.

Some McDonald’s locations were hoping to attract new workers by offering $200-$400 bonuses for new employees Yahoo Money reported, while operations like Kelly Ford and Assured Home Health promised payouts of $7,500 and $15,000, respectively.

As the pandemic continues, so do nurse shortages. One hospital in South Dakota, Monument Health, offered a whopping $40,000 sign-on bonus to intensive care and operating room nurses, according to Business Insider. Pennsylvania’s TribLive reported some regional hospitals are offering up to $15,000, while Indianapolis PBS affiliate WFYI said some Indiana hospitals are prepared to pay up to $7,500.

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