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On top of its announcement last week that it plans to hire 11,000 people across the country, including people who can fill out 2,000 management positions, Kroger said yesterday that it is making “new investments in employee benefits, education and wages as retailers across the board are spending more on their employees to keep pace in a tighter labor market,” CNBC reports.

According to the story, “Among the new initiatives, Kroger is introducing a Feed Your Future program to support continuing education for all part-time and full-time associates following six months of employment. As part of the program, Kroger will offer up to $3,500 annually ($21,000 over the course of employment) to support educational advancements like high school equivalency exams, professional certifications and advanced degrees. The grocer is offering employees the opportunity to take leaves from work for these educational pursuits while maintaining their role and seniority … It is also increasing the company match for its 401(k) program to 5 percent, up from 4 percent previously. It is expanding its employee discount program for associate shopping in its stores. It is investing $5 million more into its Helping Hands program, an internal fund to aid associates during hardship.”

Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen tells CNBC that “what we found through our research is people are incredibly interested in education and fearful of debt. And the other part is we thought [that] it is important to support that ... in terms that it will help you get your GED, English as a second language [classes], or a college degree or MBA or whatever works for you.”
KC's View:
These are, in fact, the kinds of moves that companies have to make if they want to be preferred employers … and in a competitive climate where bricks-and-mortar retailers should be using their people to differentiate themselves, being a preferred employer should be a priority.

One thing I’d like to see more of: Companies that help employees retire student debt. I think that would be an enormous factor for a lot of employees.