How a Fried Chicken Sandwich Inspired Me to Rethink Employee Retention

Lora Haines Headshot
By: Lora Haines
Workshop, Webinar, and Coaching Extraordinaire

Leaders and HR professionals all over the globe are asking, “How do we make sure our best employees don’t leave?” According to Gallup’s most recent data, lack of engagement or active disengagement in 2023 accounted for about $1.9 trillion in lost productivity. Attending HR conferences across the US this year has given me the opportunity to hear how different organizations are combatting disengagement.

After delivering one of JB’s leadership programs on balancing empathy and accountability at the HR Florida Conference, I stumbled upon the final keynote of the conference: a session led by Joe Deloss, founder of Hot Chicken Takeover. Throughout the session, Joe shared tactical and inspiring ways to drive engagement and mitigate turnover in a hot job market – and he had the stats to prove they are working at his company. While the foodservice industry typically averages 150% turnover per year, Hot Chicken Takeover averages just 35% turnover and had a 95% return rate during the pandemic. His take on the key action to avoid employee turnover? Create jobs worth referral. It’s the responsibility of leadership and HR to create a job environment where your employees want to go out of the way to refer new candidates – and not just to collect a referral bonus.

I was inspired by this directive and compiled three tactical ways you can make sure that your organization is creating jobs worth referral:

If your employees don’t know how they can grow within their role, they will go somewhere that they can. How are you talking about growth within your organization? Even if you cannot provide promotions or raises at this time, what benefits or opportunities can you provide to your people to make them stay? In our Managing to Lead series, we address how important it is to not only set clear expectations but also elaborate on how tasks, roles, and responsibilities can lead to future career trajectory and growth. The bottom line is when an employee can see a direct path to how they role they are doing today will lead to the job they want tomorrow, they are more likely to stay.

Do the benefits your company provides match the realities of your team today? Are the ‘perks’ still relevant in an ever-changing workforce where the physical office is less utilized? Do your managers actively show appreciation toward their team members? We haven’t seen a virtual pizza party in a while, and there’s a reason for that. Burnout is realThe more we can proactively create space, offer resources, and provide support to help employees set and maintain boundaries, the more engaged they will be in their roles.

When employees feel disconnected or uninformed, they tend to question their skillset, their value to the team, or their job stability. One of the key ways to prevent these spirals before they take over is to build the resilience muscle. Talk to your team about having a growth mindset, and focus on continually moving forward with probing questions like: “What could we learn from this experience?” It is essential to keep the lines of communication open with your team to candidly discuss complex topics especially during times of stress or change.

When an employee can see a direct path for career development, feel like their manager understands (and addresses) their individual needs, and can openly communicate with team members and receive feedback for their work, they will feel drawn to not only stay, but also contribute to creating jobs worth referral.

What can you do today to implement these strategies in your role?