Following the E. coli scare that landed 21 people in the hospital a few months ago, Chipotle closed all of their stores today for a national employee meeting. At this meeting they planned to “share information as to what may have caused some customers to become ill in 2015” as well as present an outline with “the steps that have been taken outside the restaurants to make Chipotle ingredients safer than ever.” The meeting was broadcasted live from Denver to various locations across the country so that all employees could attend. Stores re-opened nationally at 3pm.
Steve Ellis, the Founder, Chairman, and co-CEO of Chipotle says, “We want [our employees] to know how much we appreciate their dedication to this critical mission.” I am impressed by how much Chipotle values their employees and it makes a strong statement for themselves publicly as well. There are a number of ways that company executives could have delivered this message to their associates without closing their stores – just like the processes for training on new equipment or menu items.
Fast food workers often have very little reason to choose one employer over another since they all have roughly the same low hour wage, so Chipotle is changing that. By closing the stores and truly soliciting employee feedback Chipotle’s management is then reaching out to strengthen employee relationships in a time when the scandal surrounding food safety may otherwise cause them to look for jobs at employers who aren’t in the press for such issues.
A Society for Human Resource Management’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement study, found that compensation and a sense of job security are the top two determinants of job happiness. Creating a forum to make sure employees know the reasons why no more E. coli outbreaks are expected is a key way to rebuild that security, in an environment where presumably, employee questions and voices can be heard.
Third in the SHRM study in job happiness, incidentally, are issues related to work scheduling. Presumably the all-hands meeting was selected for a date and time that works well for the vast majority of Chipotle employees. Yet, Chipotle’s strategy can also include discussions about scheduling every day as a way to keep employees engaged on even the most mundane days by giving them a voice in this more personal issue.
Other restaurant employers have taken these notions of employee engagement to heart by finding ways to distinguish themselves as potential employers of choice by giving employees a voice in collaboratively creating schedules that work for them every day of the year.
P.S. To apologize for being closed today, Chipotle is giving out free burritos.