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How to Find, Keep and Grow the Best Young Team Members at Work


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Recently I had the great privilege to talk with Andy Lorenzen, Senior Director, Organizational Effectiveness and Development for Chick-fil-A, and discuss the importance of leading the next generation and creating a culture they will respond to in the workplace. Here are a few notes from our discussion. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

Andy Lorenzen

Andrew Lorenzen

Your company employs tens of thousands of young team members across the country. We say these young team members are from Generation iY, in which this generation has become famous for being “screenagers,” not just teeanagers. What do you look for when your operators or corporate managers are hiring a young teenager?

We look for the three C’s (Character, Chemistry and Competence) and the three O’s (Ownership, Optimism and Opportunity).

Character, Chemistry and Competence:

Character: What is their track record of decision-making or commitment to a long-term goal?

Chemistry: The ability a person has to build and maintain relationships with team members and customers.

Competence: Does the person have an orientation toward learning? Is it lifelong or momentary?

Ownership, Optimism and Opportunity:

Ownership: Do they own their successes as well as their failures? That leads to humility.

Optimism: Do they view things as glass half empty, or glass half full?

Opportunity: We want people who are driven by a sense of wanting to help people, seeing the best in people, and opportunity in every customer who comes in the store. Opportunity to sell chicken, but also to make an impact, we believe that every one has a story, and we want people who see those stories.


Do you expect the same second mile service from a 16-year-old? Do you onboard a young team member a little differently, or do you think they need to come in ready and, if they aren’t ready, we don’t hire them?

Figuring out Chick-fil-A can be a difficult thing for anyone, It’s not an easy thing to figure out how to serve that many customers in a consistent way. But at the end of the day, we do believe that a 16-year-old can be a servant leader, just as a 46-year-old can be a servant leader.


I totally agree. Sometimes, I think we’re guilty of low expectations of a teen. I love how you call out the best.

The quick service industry is notorious for high turnover among employees. However, Chick-fil-A enjoys a much lower turnover rate. What’s your secret?

We have incredible operators that lead incredible businesses, and all the credit for a low turnover rate in restaurants goes entirely to them. But something else is in play here: it’s the idea that our operators value results as well as relationships.


Every boss wants results, but that can lead to short-term thinking. When it’s results and relationships that’s culture not just cash. When it’s a fun culture, you want to stay around.

A few tricks our operators use that have been particularly helpful with Millennials is the idea that they share the score. The score doesn’t have to be cars in the drive thru, it can be smiles in the drive thru.


What do you do at both your corporate headquarters and your restaurant locations to create an environment that is conducive to retaining employees? Could you elaborate more on the power of culture?

One of the things that we are teaching operators is a model that has four parts.

  1. Betting on Leadership: believing that your business rises and falls with leadership
  2. Act as One as a Leadership Team: the team members who come to work everyday need to feel part of a unified team.
  3. Engage the Heart: make sure the relationships you have with people are not solely centered around the work product, but around the life product as well.
  4. Excel at Execution

So much of Generation iY is motivated by a purpose.


Our research reveals that young people want a place where they can serve a meaningful cause, experience flexible hours, enjoy close relationships, and be developed. Talk about some specific examples of how you do this, either at Chick-fil-A headquarters or at your restaurant locations.

In restaurants, this comes down to three things: friends, fun and flexibility. All of these things work together to create a local purpose.

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Chick-fil-A has a strong conviction to develop people. Why are you so committed to developing people, and how do you go about developing good people and great leaders?

This is a great, highly strategic question. There are some fundamental reasons why we feel so deeply about learning and development at Chick-fil-A:

  1. It’s an opportunity to live out our corporate purpose.
  2. When you develop the talent you have, you maintain your people as a competitive advantage.
  3. It helps us combat complacency and stagnation.
  4. We think that when we invest in learning and development, it helps build cultural cohesiveness. It establishes common language and knowledge.


You gave us some practical reasons to take time out and grow your people.

What have you seen as the greatest need for growth in the emerging generation?

When people come into the work-force for the first time as a 23- or 24-year-old, they often have some misled ideas about work that maybe haven’t been honed over time, such as:

  • An accelerated belief system about their workplace
  • A misunderstanding of work ethic or ownership of one’s career


One of our brand new Habitudes® is called Apartments and Homes. We simply say you tend to take care of your own home better than that apartment you rented. We tell people: don’t rent your job, own it.

We have gotten so much benefit from using Habitudes in our restaurants. We have many operators that have used them over the years with their leadership teams to start a dialogue. It’s really good, rich content for personal development, but its also really good, rich content for team leadership development. We want to thank you for creating such great content; it’s been helpful to our operators, franchisees, and the leaders they are growing in their stores.


How fun it is to have a picture and dialogue that helps a young person really get it. Is there any last thought as you think about the development of the next generation of workers for companies across the country?

There’s one thing I think would be incredibly helpful for all generations, and it’s the idea of mentorship. There is an opportunity in every relationship to be a mentor to someone and have a positive influence.


Want to use the resource Andy is raving about? Check out our newest installment, Habitudes® for New Professionals. Individual books are available for purchase now!



How to Find, Keep and Grow the Best Young Team Members at Work