November 4, 2022
President & CFO, Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants
Cheryl A. Oldham
Vice President of Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Throughout the country, working parents are doing what they can to support their children despite record-high inflation and elevated costs. To support these parents, some companies are shouldering part of that responsibility and helping employees overcome hardship.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Childcare Roadmap for Employers event, small and large business owners joined together to discuss being proactive in supporting working parents’ childcare needs. As part of the event, Cheryl Oldham, the SVP of Education & Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, sat down with Jasmine Donovan, the President & CFO of Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants in Seattle, to observe the strides the restaurant company has made to support its employees and their children through programs and incentives.
Dick’s Flexible Scholarship Program Has Impacted Thousands of Employees’ Lives
From its inception, Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants have emphasized the importance of its employees’ well-being. To ease the burden of childcare, the company offers a long-standing scholarship program that awards employees $28,000 over four years, and up to $50,000 in a lifetime, to cover the cost of education or childcare.
“The way that it works for childcare is that the same amount that would go towards a scholarship is split into 12-month pieces and … paid out to a childcare provider,” Donovan explained. “This gives our employees a lot of flexibility. Having the continued ability to use this scholarship or childcare program is really helpful for our working parents.”
While the Dick’s Scholarship Program Is Helpful, There Are Still Larger Issues to Address
Donovan sees the impact her company’s program is making in employees' lives. However, with so much demand and so little supply in the market, it’s clear that more work must be done.
“There's a supply and demand mismatch between the number of families who need childcare and the childcare spots that are available,” Donovan said. “The flexibility of our program helps our working families work around that, [as] they [often] need non-traditional hours that most employer childcare providers are not going to be able to offer.”
Although the program is instrumental in helping the company to attract and retain working parents, the cost of childcare — especially in the Seattle area — is far greater than what the company can compensate for.
“It doesn't come close to covering the cost,” Donovan said. “This comes out to being about a $450 monthly benefit when you split it up over 12 months. The average cost of childcare for an infant in the Seattle area is about $2,300 a month. So [while the program] takes the edge off, this does not solve the problem.”
Businesses Can Take Influence from Dick’s Programs
The variety of programs and incentives offered to employees at Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants is shaping how companies worldwide provide for their employees. Donovan shared some advice to those companies looking to make an impact.
“Think about what benefit you can offer or where you can provide more value than just paying a higher dollar amount,” Donovan explained. “Specifically for a scholarship or a childcare program, a lot of employers are afraid to take the first step to offer it out because they don't know that they'll be able to afford it. Decide what you can afford and start with that.”
She highlights that finding benefits you can afford — and that employees want — will make all the difference.
“Flexibility is key,” Donovan said. “Listen to your workforce — they'll let you know what is gonna be useful for them.”