Putting People in Your Plan: How Do We Train People Skills?

July 15, 2010 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Truett[Part Two of Six]

The short answer is, we don’t. Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy addressed this very question directly in a 2005 interview. He acknowledged the tremendous energy the company puts into training and retaining employees, but he said the key is to begin the process by selecting the right people in the first place. The company is extraordinarily selective when hiring. Instead of trying to train people to say “please” and “thank you,” Chick-fil-A hires people who already say “please” and “thank you.” Cathy summed it up in the interview saying, “We give them good training, but I expect them to bring their personalities with them.”

It’s tempting to dismiss the company’s commitment to careful hiring as the byproduct of some unseen advantage. But Chick-fil-A enjoys no such thing. The company slugs it out in the wildly competitive fast-food restaurant segment against industry titans with huge marketing war chests like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and hordes of others. To make matters even more challenging, capacity in the fast-food segment has been outstripping population growth for at least a decade. And the front-line jobs at these restaurants aren’t high paying or particularly fun, compounding the recruiting challenge. Anybody who’s worked in a restaurant environment can attest to the long hours, fast pace, and just plain hard work. The company’s commitment to finding people who work hard with smiles on their faces boils down to just that: commitment. Chick-fil-A leadership believes in the difference people make, and they focus on recruitment and retention through practices that consistently deliver the best front-line employees in the industry. The company’s enviable financials underscore the efficacy of the approach.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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