Competition for employees is always good for the workers. These days, with an unemployment rate below 4 percent, employers offering entry-level jobs have to fight to attract stable workers. Taco Bell is hosting ‘exciting’ hiring parties. Starbucks is working to improve its mental health benefits. McDonald’s has gone its own way, partnering with AARP to hire retirees. And Chipotle, seeking to reduce turnover in all of its stores, polled its management team to see what they thought would attract talent and keep it. The answer? More education benefits.

On October 15, Chipotle announced that the restaurant chain would pay for its employees to further their education by pursuing business or tech degrees. The program, which will commence November 15, will allow part- or full-time employees to choose from 75 degree programs offered by five schools around the country, for free, as long as the student remains employed at Chipotle for the duration of their education. Chipotle also asks participants to stay with the restaurant chain for another six months after graduation, but it’s unclear if that request is binding.

“For young people to have the ability to afford an education—what a great way to attract new talent,” said Marissa Andrada, Chipotle’s chief people officer. She added that the initiative shows current and new employees that Chipotle is loyal to them, as a good employer should be.

This program is actually an expansion of Chipotle’s existing education benefits, which already offered more than $5,000 a year in tuition reimbursement along with a few other educational assistance programs. In 2015, ‘16, and ‘19, Forbes Magazine had Chipotle on various “America’s Best Employers” lists, and this may put the restaurant chain there again for 2020.

“We are focused on team stability and development,” said Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol. During a call with stockholders discussing the company’s first-quarter earnings, he impressed upon them how important it is to hold onto restaurant managers “through better leadership training, providing a clear direction on career progression to ensure long-term success and great benefits.”

Even though it may seem as if paying fast-food workers to get tech and business degrees is an expensive way to get them to quit, Chipotle regards this as an investment. After all, the company has and will continue to have tech and business needs. Moreover, treating employees like people who wish to grow can only reap positive dividends.

Photo by Studio Barcelona /