The former chief marketing officer of Chick-fil-A discusses how he attracted and retained talent through servant leadership.
Salyers' approach is a masterclass in servant leadership.
Chick-fil-A is known for delivering "second-mile service." First-mile service is delivering what customers expect such as quality food, quick service, and a clean restaurant. Second-mile service is delivering more than what customers expect such as escorting customers to their car with an umbrella on a rainy day or carrying heavy food trays for parents with small children.
As a leader at Chick-fil-A, Salyers extended second-mile service to his employees.
After candidates had been interviewed by every person they would be working with, Salyers would meet with the potential hire for a final interview and communicate the following:
We have come to the conclusion, we cannot imagine another day without you in this organization. Truett Cathy [the founder of Chick-fil-A] taught me that we become like those we surround ourselves with for better or worse. When I'm around you, I feel like I'm getting better by the day. And I want that influence in my life and we want to be that influence for you.
Collectively we want to work together to create value that results in a big paycheck. However, at the end of your career at Chick-fil-A, I want you to look me in the eye and say the least important thing I got from CFA was my paycheck. I want your paycheck to be the least important thing you ever get from Chick-fil-A.
Salyers would then grab a pad of paper, and ask the candidate:
For your paycheck to be the least remarkable thing in your life, what would make that true? Tell me about your bucket list items. Who do you want to become in life because of working here? What will be important for your family?
Salyers would take copious notes about what the candidate's remarkable future needs to look like. Those notes become Salyers' job description.
Most leaders provide employees with a job description. That's expected.
Other leaders make supporting and developing employees their job description. That's unexpected. That's second-mile leadership.
Chick-fil-A's 97 percent employee retention rate is a result of second-mile leadership.
While second-mile leadership will win over any employee, it's especially impactful for Gen Z because the most important factor Gen Z considers in a job is "supportive leadership." Twenty-three percent of Gen Z won't take a job without a supportive leader. Additionally, nearly a third of Gen Z is motivated to work harder and stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager.
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