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“It’s a place I remember my mom and dad taking me as a kid. There’s no growth and development around the company, and I never hear any buzz surrounding it.”
Those were the words that Chili’s Director of Workplace Community Chris Ebbeler heard after surveying employees of other restaurants. They polled the audience to understand how Chili’s Grill & Bar brand was perceived by restaurant workers and whether they’d even consider working for the restaurant. In short, the responses left him and other members of the Chili’s brass disappointed.
The company listened to those concerns, as well as those heard from their own team members and made an important decision: to turn their organization around and transform the old-school perception into something powerful, modern and worthwhile to attract the next generation workforce.
It’s worked so far. The company was ranked no. 11 on the “Best Places to Work for Millennials”, ahead of much-covered Millennial-friendly brands like Google and Twitter. Chili’s also ranked highly, winning awards for the “Best Places For Women to Work”, as well as “Best Camaraderie Between Employees”. They were the only restaurant brand ranked in these categories.
Reshaping how people perceived the Chili’s brand, and making it an attractive place to work took time, effort and buy-in from their team members. So how did Ebbeler and the Chili’s community do it?
They Focused on the Tenants of Being the Best “You”
The Chili’s leadership team knew a shift change was in order to attract new team members, so they focused on creating their brand story around what they called “Being the Best You”.
The elements included in this campaign were:
- A team member’s physical well-being
- Career progress
- Social life
- Relationship with their community
- Their financial well-being
Chili’s honed in on those aspects, developing community initiatives, creating financial programs that could help team members, and even instituting yoga classes to create a way for team members to keep up their physical fitness during a long shift.
They Built Up & Grew Their Online Brand
Ebbeler and his team sought to reshape the online identity of the Chili’s brand. They first reimagined their company’s online social media pages, making them aesthetically pleasing as well as informative and clearly displaying the company’s purpose. They built Chilisjobs.com as well as a Twitter handle, @Chilisjobs, with the website giving job seekers a chance to see all the benefits of working at Chili’s (including ones they may not have realized!), while also finding out how each position within the restaurant contributes to the company’s overall goal.
They Rallied Around Corporate Social Responsibility
From their research, Ebbeler knew that in order to capture the hearts of Millennials, they had to instill a sense of purpose in the Chili’s culture. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do,” Ebbeler said, quoting Simon Sinek. Using hashtags like #chilislove and #purpose15, Chili’s sought to show the world the fun their team members had in-and-outside of work, as well as the social good that its team members performed in the community on a daily basis. With the #chilisgrow hashtag, the company highlighted important team member milestones and promotions to show the growth path that’s possible at Chili’s.
They Engaged With Their Team Members (the @Chilisjobs Family) Online
Chili’s team members were already telling the story of the company on social media, posting selfies and other social media musings as they went about their work days. The company took the engagement one step further chatting with their team members online, whether it’d be to congratulate a new hire, or by sharing inspirational stories of their Chili’s team members. They focused their @Chilisjobs handle on promoting the fun team members were having. Ultimately, it was about communicating the message that “we see you.”
The company didn’t start engaging immediately, though. They studied their team members, through their tweets and other interactions and created fun opportunities for their team members to engage with the brand. In one instance, a team member tweeted that managers had asked to take a selfie, but she was unenthused. @Chilisjobs responded with a request for a smiling selfie. Her response was awesome. She gave the Chili’s team a thumb’s up that she was ready for their Annual Giveback Game Day. One day a year the Chili’s Team gives a portion of their profits to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. That was just the beginning of what became a trending topic: Chili’s Team Members proud to show up, work and give back for a great cause.
They Used HotSchedules To Maximize Team Member Engagement
Chili’s is always looking for ways to engage their team members, and Ebbeler says the company is huge fans of HotSchedules, using it as their team member scheduling and primary communications platform. In fact, HotSchedules was one of three vendors named Brinker International’s Supplier Partner of the Year. We love working with Chili’s to help their company “Live With Purpose” and create a great place for people to work.