Chobani Boosts Wages and 401(k) Match, Adds Child Care Benefit

Kathryn Mayer By Kathryn Mayer July 24, 2023

​Food company Chobani is beefing up benefits and wages in hopes of staying competitive in a continuing tight labor market, as well as alleviating pain points for employees in a challenging economy.

The Norwich, N.Y.-based firm known for its Greek yogurt increased its minimum starting wage for all full-time employees in manufacturing and corporate hourly positions to $20 per hour from $18.50. The company also is increasing its 100 percent 401(k) match to 4 percent from 3 percent, in an effort to help make retirement planning easier.

Chobani also announced it's adding a child care benefit through provider WeeCare. All full-time Chobani employees throughout the U.S., including manufacturing, corporate and remote workers, will have access to a network of child care professionals and will be eligible to receive backup care credits and an annual cash stipend to put toward child care or elder care costs. Chobani has roughly 2,700 U.S. employees.

The wage hike kicked in at the beginning of July, while the retirement match and child and elder care benefit addition will be implemented later this year, said Shari Eaton, the firm's chief people officer.

Chobani's moves were made to address key priorities and concerns for workers, Eaton said, adding that the changes are in direct response to pain points that employees said they were experiencing.

"We constantly conduct listening sessions with all of our employees, and one important thing we learned was about some of the challenges our employees were facing finding quality and affordable child care, especially in some of the more rural areas where our manufacturing plants are located," she said.

The move follows a larger trend of employers beefing up compensation and benefits because of a competitive job market. Walmart, Adidas, Hormel and Thomson Reuters are among the employers that have recently announced benefits and compensation changes for their employees. Although some sectors, like tech, have suffered layoffs, the job market still remains largely competitive, and several organizations have boosted offerings to sweeten the pot.

"While fewer organizations reported having trouble with attraction and retention this year compared to last year, and they expect [those challenges] to continue to ease in 2024, attraction and retention challenges continue due to a tight labor market and labor shortages for certain skills and industries," said Lesli Jennings, North America leader of work, rewards and careers at WTW.

The tight labor market has put pressure on organizations to raise salaries. Recent research from consulting firm Mercer, for instance, found that U.S. employers reported that 2023 annual merit increases have averaged 3.8 percent, while total compensation—which includes merit awards as well as all other types of compensation increases impacting base pay, such as promotional, cost of living and minimum wage—increased by 4.1 percent. That's the highest increase since 2008.

Chobani's benefits changes also come as other employers focus on family-friendly benefits, including leave benefits and family support. SHRM's 2023 Employee Benefits Survey, released in June, found that significant strides have been made in parental leave and family leave benefits programs over the past year, signaling that employers are getting serious about supporting employees in their home lives as well as their work lives.

Family-friendly benefits are among the most important offerings to employees, the survey found. Eighty-nine percent of HR leaders said those perks were "very important" or "extremely important."

That's likely because benefits are "all about family this year," SHRM researcher Cal Engstrom said recently. "Prior to the pandemic, a lot of benefits had been about focusing on individuals. But when COVID-19 hit, a lot of employers started to think about benefits that help not just their employees, but their loved ones, as well."



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