HR exclusive: New family care benefits introduced to help employees shine

Mary Porter, Chief People Officer of Mister Car Wash

Exceptional customer service and a people-first culture have propelled Mister Car Wash to become America’s premier car wash company. Founded in 1969, the now publicly-traded company has come a long way from its initial location in Houston, Texas. Its focus on caring for its 7,000+ team members has inspired a culture of customer care throughout the enterprise, enabling its expansion to 475+ locations across 21 states

To assure ongoing growth, including plans to reach 1,000+ locations nationwide, the company focuses on recruiting and retaining top talent. Because regional and retail job markets are highly competitive, Mister Car Wash has made strategic investments in employee benefits to help it attract employees and build a pipeline. To learn more about the company’s strategy and how it’s paying off, we spoke to Chief People Officer Mary Porter.

What’s behind the emphasis on having a strong company culture at Mister Car Wash?

We see real value in having a people-first culture. We believe that how employees feel about their work will translate into positive experiences for our customers. We strive to create an inclusive, caring environment where employees can shine.

We want team members to thrive, grow and develop, and have successful careers here whether they're working at a car wash or in our corporate offices. Besides providing meaningful work that employees enjoy doing, we offer affordable healthcare, generous PTO time, 401K matching, and competitive pay – including special incentives on holidays when employees are working and away from their families. Based on feedback from employees, we recently added July 4th to our list of paid holidays

We’re really proud of the continued training and development opportunities we give employees to grow into assistant managers, managers, and general managers. Nearly 90 percent of our leaders in the field are promoted from within the company. They’re incentivized to grow with us through stock grant awards. It gives them a real stake in the company, and it signals to our frontline employees that they really matter. We believe this strategy helps us to attract the best talent.

How do your values and culture frame the company’s benefits strategy?

Our values guide how we show up for our employees every day. More than 90 percent of our employees are in the field. We believe strongly that if we take care of our frontline employees, our business is better and we win. As a result, we have a very field-focused approach. So, when we think about benefits or perks, we have the lens on what will resonate best with our frontline team members. They're doing the heavy lifting for us, so we need to take care of them. Many of the same benefits support the needs of our corporate team members. 

Caring for employees matters more and more today, especially when considering the work/life challenges of employees who are caregivers. For this reason, we’ve recently introduced Bright Horizons Back-up Care for employees. 

We feel having back-up care removes some of the stressors our caregivers face every day. It allows employees to have peace of mind, and it aligns with our value of creating a caring culture. It shows we understand the difficulties employees face finding and paying for child care, as well as all the complexities of being a caregiver today

What prompted you to add a back-up care benefit at this point in time?

Back-up care is one of those benefits that’s really special. It creates peace of mind and offers a safety net for employees

We've all faced that morning call when our caregiver has fallen through, or there's an unexpected closure at one of our facilities, and you're left with this helpless feeling of, "Well, geez, what do I do now?" Having this contingency allows our team members to know that when they're faced with that type of situation, they have options. Missing a shift or two can have a profound impact on a team member. Having back-up care allows them to come to work knowing that their children, or other dependent, who need care, are in good hands. It also allows them to maintain consistent pay.

The idea of ensuring consistent pay arose in conversations with field employees who raised concerns about the challenges they face when they miss work. Offering back-up care felt like the right thing to do.

Are there benefits that Mister Car Wash itself will realize from offering back-up care to employees?

Recruiting and retaining frontline employees has never been more challenging. Frontline employees have a lot of choices today. By offering back-up care, we’ll be able to differentiate and better compete for talent in our markets. It's part of our value proposition for choosing to work here. We hope more employees or candidates will consider Mister Car Wash as a result of this unique benefit.

I also believe knowing their co-workers won't miss shifts will have an impact on other team members. When you're operating a car wash and a team member calls off for their shift, other employees have to step up. I think team morale will improve and we'll see an uptick in productivity. That means better service for our customers who contribute to over 90 million cars washed annually and the 2.1 million subscription members in our Unlimited Wash Club. It’s a win-win all around.  

You joined Mister Car Wash from another company that offered Bright Horizons Back-Up Care. Did this influence your decision to choose Bright Horizons?

My past partnership with Bright Horizons was really positive. When we launched back-up care there, the feedback was fantastic. Even employees who didn’t get value out of it directly, placed value on knowing it was available. 

When we looked for a partner here, the reputation and the reach of Bright Horizons stood out. In comparing our locations to Bright Horizons’ locations, the overlap was well over 90 percent. That meant we could reliably serve our employees in a meaningful way through this partnership. We feel confident that our team members' families will be well taken care of by Bright Horizons

We’ve already received a lot of positive feedback. We're seeing enrollment numbers pop up, and we're hearing stories around employees’ plans to use back-up care to cover holidays when their regular child care is unavailable.

We know all families are different. Maybe an employee needs help finding full-time child care, a tutor, a companion for an older relative or a pet sitter. Now we’re able to support these caregiving needs as well through our Bright Horizons Enhanced Family Supports offering. We’re excited to provide employees with access to nationwide search tools and discounts that can help with affordability. Bright Horizons is a great partner, and we think that we can continue to build on our partnership through the years.

Some employers may not be able to fully understand the value of a benefit, like back-up care, for hourly frontline workers. Can you speak to the reasoning behind providing it as a support?

For us, it comes down to understanding the business model and understanding the contributions team members make. We can't succeed without our frontline employees. They are closest to our customers. They're supporting our business in the most important way. We must keep them top of mind as we make these types of decisions.

As a frontline employer, you must look at creative ways to support your team. We offer a discounted footwear program to promote safety and help our associates comply with the uniform requirement of slip-resistant shoes. We have free programs to help our employees manage hypertension and diabetes, back, knee and other pain, and their mental well-being. We know taking time off to see a doctor can be challenging, so we provide free access to telemedicine. We enable our employees to access their earned pay when they need it. All of these things help our employees be at their best, and in turn, help us be at our best

If you know that improved satisfaction with frontline employees means better business, providing back-up care and other added-value benefits is an easy choice. Plus, it's the right thing to do.


Mary Porter, Chief People Officer of Mister Car Wash

Subscribe to the On the Horizon Newsletter