Why Postmates is turning to education perks for COVID relief

Some employees now have access to free courses as the “unemployment rate continues to soar and the future of work remains uncertain.”
By: | June 25, 2020 • 3 min read
(Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Postmates is turning to a new benefit to help some of its workers during the coronavirus pandemic: free educational assistance.

The food-delivery company says it’s partnering with online education provider edX to provide employees with access to education certificates and virtual career guidance, for free, as part of its COVID-19 relief efforts. The benefit is being offered to Postmates Fleet, a workforce of independent contractors who deliver on behalf of Postmates, the company says.

The benefit includes access to more than 2,800 courses on a variety of topics, as well as a list of 25 curated courses in which employees previously expressed interest, via an internal survey. The goal is to “provide them with transferable skills and preparedness needed in a time when the unemployment rate continues to soar and the future of work remains uncertain,” the company says.

“In response to the COVID pandemic, edX is a perfect way to provide virtual opportunities for growth and learning as we navigate these uncertain times,” says Rachel Kamen, Postmates community engagement coordinator. “[The benefit] allows us to not only reach learners in all communities, but also provides access to quality courses from top-tier institutions—widening the opportunity for long-term economic security.”

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Kamen says more than 100 Fleet members currently are participating in a wide variety of edX courses, and the company is “continuing to engage our Fleet to enroll.” She says the company plans to continue to offer the benefit for free post-pandemic.

Kamen says an internal survey found that many gig workers were interested in upward mobility and educational opportunities, but didn’t have access to them.

“In a job landscape that was already quickly evolving, COVID-19 has now added even more pressure on Americans to future-proof their careers and attain job security as the market gets more competitive.”

A number of employers have been turning to benefits to help employees through the pandemic. Telemedicine, mental health, one-time bonuses, financial wellbeing, paid leave and more have been a focus of employers. But education benefits, says edX co-CEO Adam Medros, are a perk employers should also consider, especially considering the fragility of the job market.

“The economic impact of the pandemic has put Americans under enormous financial strain, with many people losing jobs, getting furloughed or facing pay cuts,” he says. “In a job landscape that was already quickly evolving, COVID-19 has now added even more pressure on Americans to future-proof their careers and attain job security as the market gets more competitive.”

Related: 8 benefits employers should zero in on during the COVID-19 pandemic

Medros says he’s seen an uptick in employers adding or considering education benefits for workers in light of the pandemic.

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“Companies are recognizing that the reality of social distancing and remote work is likely to stick around longer than anticipated, and they want to best set up their workforce for success,” he says. “Although learning and development budgets can be the first to go in an economic downturn, [an education benefit is] actually one of the smartest things you can do for your workforce. It keeps them engaged, learning relevant skills and can boost morale.”

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.