Competing With Entrepreneurship: Honeywell Hopes To Retain Atlanta Tech Talent By Paying Off Student Loans

Holly Beilin
Written by Holly Beilin

Whether it’s a generational mindset or simply the new norm, there’s no doubt that it’s harder to retain employees than it used to be.

A LinkedIn study showed that the millennial generation jumps jobs four times in their first decade out of college — nearly double the hopping of the previous generation. Add this to a growing gig/freelance economy and a higher likelihood of pursuing entrepreneurship, and even top companies have to fight tooth and nail for talent.

Honeywell, which announced the placement of its multimillion-dollar Software Center in Midtown Atlanta last year, today unveiled a new recruiting method to attract and retain the best and brightest of those elusive technical minds — a student loan payoff program where the company contributes up to $10,000 to pay off employees schooling debts.

“We started thinking, what are some contemporary benefits, things we could do differently as an organization,” says Jim Schwab, Honeywell’s Vice President of Staffing for the Atlanta Software Center & Home and Building Technologies business group. Together, the two offices will employ about 830 by 2020.

The program, which uses a third-party intermediary to handle the payments, will be made available immediately for all current employees on any team — not just developers — in the software center, currently at about 120.

Though Honeywell is testing the payment program only in the Atlanta software center, they will measure its effectiveness to determine whether it should be rolled out to more offices across Honeywell, Schwab says. The company already offers programs like selective tuition reimbursement and commuter benefits.

Honeywell
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Honeywell has been producing appliances and physical devices for over a century, but the software center represents a new phase in the company’s growth. Described as a startup within the corporation, the agile team will rapidly analyze data from products across Honeywell’s portfolio, deliver insights, and improve existing products or even inform new ones.

They chose Atlanta for the new center for a number of reasons including ease of travel and low cost of living. But Honeywell executives said that the talent in the southeast was certainly a top benefit.

“It’s hard to find a better, more diverse city with the kind of talent we’re looking for than Atlanta,” said Bruce Calder, a former VP who has since left the company, last year.

Schwab points out the increasing amount of debt that graduates have now compared to even just a decade ago — 70 percent of today’s college students take out a loan. The average debt upon entering a first job is $35,000. With the ability to earn almost a third of that, this benefit could certainly keep employees at the company for a number of years.

“This is around retaining our top software talent,” says Schwab. “It’s attraction as well, but we’re really measuring the positive impact on retention of software talent as a determining factor.”

Software center employees eligible for the payment program will receive $150 per month toward their loan up to a total of $10,000. For an employee with the average balance of $35,000 at a 5 percent interest rate and 10-year repayment term, this will save them over 3 years of repayment time — over $13,000 on the total cost of the loan.

This article originally appeared in Hypepotamus. It is reposted here with the editor’s permission.