Building Today’s Workforce One Burrito at a Time


If someone offered you a new job that provided you with a clear career path, more money, and you would be working with an internal management team devoted toward your success, would you leave your current position?

Now what if this job started with making burritos?

Before you answer, you should know this — Chipotle Mexican Grill had taken its industry by storm using just such an approach.

In 2005, the Denver-based company underwent a transformation that would make its workplace culture as distinct as its food. As more than 1,000 stores opened across the U.S., the company focused on creating a system where promoting managers from within would create a feedback loop of better, more motivated employees. That year, about 20 percent of the company’s managers had been promoted from within. Last year, nearly 85 percent of salaried managers and 96 percent of hourly managers were the result of internal promotions.

Chipotle’s targeted career development program is unheard of in an industry that often runs at a 120 percent turnover rate. What had been a revolving door of fast-food employees is now becoming a desired and coveted career move for many. An article in Quartz magazine reveals:

(Chipotle’s Co-CEO Monty Moran described the program to Quartz as a way to create “gravity” at the managerial level — to make sure that great managers are given the chance to make individual stores great. They stay involved training excellent people instead of leaving to become less effective middle management at the corporate level. The foundation of our people culture, on which everything else stands, is the concept is that each person at Chipotle will be rewarded based on their ability to make the people around them better, Moran told Quartz.)

Chipotle is revolutionizing its industry by creating a pathway to success for all of its employees. By focusing on its talent from initial attraction and recruitment all the way through onboarding, employee development, and succession planning, Chipotle provide a vision and a goal for every employee. Now who wouldn’t want that?

More and more companies are taking a holistic view of their workforce. They realize that they need to consider the entire employee life cycle within talent management before targeting specific areas of development and growth.

The Quartz article points out that this talent management model is paying off big dividends. Since its IPO, sales have increased from $826 million in 2005 to $3.2 billion last year. And the company had 9.3 percent growth in comparable store sales last quarter, which is remarkable for a 21-year-old company that hasn’t raised prices recently.

Paul Petron, communications manager at VoiceGlance, a job candidate screening company, puts it this way:

“What Chipotle is doing is providing workers with something few other American companies are offering today: a chance at the American Dream. If people work there and work hard, regardless of what they’ve done in the past, they’ll move up. At Chipotle, there really are examples of people raising themselves out of $9-an-hour poverty to $87,000-a-year prosperity. And this opportunity given to its workers is not just some touchy-feely good idea that sounds good in a classroom but doesn’t work in the real world. This philosophy of empowering employees is having very tangible, very real results; to the tune of $3.2 billion in annual revenue.”

What’s the moral here?

Never underestimate the power of a well-rolled burrito and the strength of the human spirit to rise when given the opportunity.

Joseph F. Bastian, president of The Human Performance Network, is a regular contributor to and DBusiness Daily News.