retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Washington Post this morning takes note of Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed, on online retailer of bulk-sized grocery products, and how he has decided to offer his employees an unusual - and unusually generous - benefit.

He is going to pay the college tuition for every one of their children.

Huang says that he will fund the initiative largely with his own money, setting aside a percentage of his stake in the company to do so. No company funds will be spent on the project.

"I actually don't think of it as a perk," he tells the Post, saying that he believes that employees have to believe that he is as willing to invest in them and their families as they are willing to invest their time and energy on his business. "If you're along with us for a ride, you deserve us investing back in you and your family's upward mobility," he says.

He's also asking people who have invested in Boxed to contribute to the initiative: "I tell them I love that you're investing in me and us, but you have to value the employees as much as me."

Wow.

The Post reports that "the program covers four years of tuition (not room and board, say, or books). He says it is designed to help employees who chose to work at Boxed before the company goes public. Huang, whose decision was first reported by Forbes, also says he plans no eligibility requirements in terms of length of tenure, or cap on tuition.

"Huang has started a nonprofit foundation, funded with a chunk of his personal shares in the company currently valued at between $1 million and $2 million, along with some cash to meet short-term obligations, to administer the program. As of now, the company only has 12 children among the families of its roughly 100 employees ... Huang says his goal is to give back to early employees as long as his stake doesn't significantly decrease in value."

That's pretty cool. And, I think, reflective of what businesses may need to do to differentiate themselves in the face of heightened competition for employees.

More on this trend below, in our story entitled "Companies Face Tighter, More Demanding Labor Market."

It is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: