3 Secrets Chick-fil-A Leaders Know About Culture That You Should Too

Whether you love them or completely disagree with them, you can’t deny Chick-fil-A’s meteoric rise to the top. Just look at your newsfeed. People cannot stop talking about their impeccable customer service or the fact they make more per store than any other fast food restaurant and they are closed on Sunday.

I’ve fallen victim myself and am obsessed with studying the organization to glean leadership lessons companies of all sizes can learn from. Recently, I went on a tour of their headquarters (Chick-fil-A calls it the Support Center) and my expectations were exceeded more than they have been in any of their restaurants. Here’s what I learned:

No ordinary Corporate Support Center

Six years ago, Chairman and CEO Dan Cathy had a vision of giving Backstage Tours with the goal of delivering an authentic storytelling experience inspired by the history, culture, and values of the company. 

Within the first 30 minutes of the tour, our group was escorted to an area where the Executive management team gathers for their weekly meeting. Instead of just a peek through the door, we were invited in to hear from Cathy himself to learn what the management team was focused on (scaling company culture) and why the company started the Backstage Tour. Before we left, Tim Tassopoulos, their COO stood up and addressed us, “Without you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do, so thank you.” Then the management team proceeded to give us a round of applause. What other company would do something like this?  

Practices worth applying in your own business

1. Collaborative Work Spaces

Chick-fil-A has spent millions of dollars renovating to create more open workspaces that foster collaboration between teams and departments. Only 25% of the company’s employees have assigned seating and everyone is encouraged to utilize the entire campus.

Mike Hazelton, the SVP of Supply Chain Operations told me, “The work that happens at the Chick-fil-A Support Center is innovative and collaborative, and we wanted the office environment to reflect and foster that thinking.”

Chick-fil-A surveys the staff after each renovation and the results have been positive with engagement, collaboration and productivity increasing each year.

It might not be feasible to renovate your workspace, but you can find ways for more collaboration between employees. If you’re remote, set up dedicated time on your team’s calendar with a Zoom conference to collaborate and use the collective experience to solve problems.

2. It’s Not Just the Customer Experience

You’re most likely familiar with Chick-fil-A’s world-class customer service at their restaurants, but did you know they use that same level of service with their employees?

“We take great care in creating and providing an enjoyable experience for guests, operators, restaurant team members, and staff. When planning our new office space, we mapped out a “day in the life” for a Chick-fil-A employee as part of our utilization survey,” said Hazelton.

This approach is perfectly in line with another success entrepreneur Richard Branson approach said, “take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. It’s simple as that.” Turn your attention to not only to how customers experience your products and services, but also give attention to your employees’ experience each day.

Become an experience company for both your employees and your customers. Be radical about mapping out these experiences because it’s one of the few things that impossible for the competition to replicate.

3. Employee Perks that Matter

Many organizations provide perks for their employees to increase retention and employee engagement. Chick-fil-A takes this to a new level. They provide lunch every day to all of their corporate employees at no cost. Providing lunch is just part of their culture of care and generosity, they also provide on-site child care in a state-of-the-art facility. The cost? Only $10/day.

While I understand this doesn’t fit in the budget for most companies, skip the free beer on tap and focus on the perks all employees care about. Things like employee development, wellness programs, leadership development, flexible work schedules, and additional vacation days. Highlight these perks to attract new talent and retain the great talent you already have. 

Chick-fil-A’ proved to me culture is not only of the utmost importance; it starts at the top, but it’s proven by its people.  

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

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