- Chipotle Mexican Grill is expanding its debt-free degree program for employees to include a historically Black college (HBCU) for the first time, the company announced Oct. 7. Paul Quinn College, located in Dallas, Texas, is one of the oldest HBCUs in the country. The education benefit has impacted growth and tenure, according to the company.
- After 120 days of working at Chipotle, employees are eligible for the program that covers 100% of tuition costs up front for more 75 different types of business and technology degrees. More than 8,000 employees have enrolled in classes using the tuition reimbursement benefit or debt-free degrees, Chipotle said.
- The majority of students (85%) using the benefit are crew members; they then go on to be "seven and a half times more likely to move into a management role within the organization," the company stated. The program is offered through a partnership with Guild Education, an education benefits company.
The retention rate for Chipotle employees is three and a half times higher for students who have enrolled in the benefit, the company said.
An emphasis on education and career development is a key part of retention, according to a 2019 survey of more than 300 HR decision makers and almost 1,500 employees. The survey, conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by Instructure, found that the majority (70%) of staff members would be at least somewhat likely to leave their current company and take a position with an employer known for investing in development and learning. Employees who left their organizations ranked career development second to compensation as a reason for departure, the survey found.
Chipotle's debt-free degree program expands the tuition reimbursement benefit for eligible employees to receive up to $5,250 each year in reimbursed tuition. Chipotle has also been improving benefits for hourly workers who are parents. The company announced in March it would increase paid parental leave to 12 weeks for birth mothers and four weeks for others who are "Restaurant Support Center and eligible field employees."
As Chipotle maintains a focus on employee benefits, it also is facing several challenges in regard to workplace culture. In September, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the company alleging a service manager at a Chipotle in Tampa, Florida, was fired after complaining about sexual assault. And in February, Chipotle agreed to reinstate a New York City worker allegedly fired for using paid sick leave provided by city law.