The Magic of Meaningful Company Values... and Chicken

By Erika Miller

Illustration of chickens with baby chicks

For parents, it’s a haven where they can feed their kids fast food that’s a cut above, let their kids play for hours, and expect friendliness and cleanliness. For college students, it offers platters of golden nuggets with zesty dipping sauce. For traveling business people, the peach milkshake offers comfort away from home. Yes, we’re talking about Chick-fil-A.

While the pandemic has shuttered the play place, Chick-fil-A has continued to innovate and speedily move its customers through the drive-through. A drive-through that’s nearly always packed.

Chick-fil-A’s customers are happy, but so are their employees. Their franchisee and corporate staff retention rates are between 95 and 97%. That’s astonishing for any industry. Couple that with a 10% increase in sales nearly every year since they opened in 1946, and we want the recipe for both their nugget and business signature sauce.

Company values matter

Why has Chick-fil-A been so successful? We can’t ignore their unique and compelling culture. They have a clear vision of who they are and what their purpose is.

From the beginning, their purpose has been tied to Biblical values of serving those around them and being good stewards of all they have. Their company values are:

  • “We’re here to serve.”
  • “We’re better together.”
  • “We are purpose-driven.”
  • “We pursue what’s next.”

And they mean it. According to a CultureX analysis, Chick-fil-A ranks in the 99th percentile for customer culture and 98th percentile for collaboration culture within their industry. Mic drop.

So what’s the secret sauce?

image with text - 70% of professionals said they’d refuse to work at a leading company with a bad workplace culture.Harvard Business Review argues that in today’s world, the old model of the CEO dictating cultural points that are then promoted with some HR lunch activities is no longer going to cut it. As the workforce fills with Millennials and Gen Z, employees will care more and more about company values. In fact, LinkedIn found that 70% of professionals said they’d refuse to work at a leading company with a bad workplace culture.

So culture is incredibly important. But if the old way of dictating values doesn’t work, what does?

image with text - Because culture is lived and experienced by your employees, your company values have to be understood and committed to by every person who works at your company.Because culture is lived and experienced by your employees, your company values have to be understood and committed to by every person who works at your company.

Customers will feel your culture from the employees they interact with. Those employees embrace your culture only as much as their managers hold them accountable and model it. Managers will only feel the need to hold their employees accountable when the C-suite implements policies and rewards that support the culture they are trying to create or sustain.

So an enduring culture is a collaborative effort where:

  • The top leaders establish company values and policies that support them
  • Managers model these values, hold team members accountable to them and reward behavior that reflects company values
  • Hiring decisions are made with culture in mind
  • Company values are explicitly discussed and expected as the norm for the way your company does business

And while we’re not trying to write a whole blog post raving about Chick-fil-A, we just can’t ignore their flawless execution of these principles.

When selecting franchisees, Chick-fil-A is incredibly, well, selective. They require a commitment to run the business in a “hands-on manner,” not just as a passive financial investment” or part of a “portfolio of business ventures.” Further cementing their Biblical roots, they assert that “Competitive candidates will show evidence of personal financial integrity and stewardship...a growth mindset, and strong character.” This is not a business willing to abandon their values for money.

In terms of hiring, Chick-fil-A uses three C’s to evaluate candidates: character, competency, and chemistry. These characteristics can be difficult to discern, but little things can reveal them. For example, if an employee treats the register workers at a Chick-fil-A as unimportant, then turns on their charm when interviewing with the manager, they don't fit a culture that promises to treat every person with respect.

Look to the future

Like Chick-fil-A’s final company value—pursue what’s next—today’s companies need to invest in the future of their culture. When a pandemic strikes, give your employees contactless plastic bins and have them deliver food to everyone in the drive-through to speed the process, or, you know, whatever your industry equivalent of innovation is.

image with text - Hire for it, fire for it. Talk the talk, and mean it.But keep your purpose in mind. Make sure your policies support your culture. Establish core company values based on what behaviors are required to move your purpose forward. Hire for it, fire for it. Talk the talk, and mean it.

And if you need more inspiration, maybe order in Chick-fil-A for your next brainstorming sesh.

Sources:

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