The most admired companies know that hiring people with the ability to care—and making caring and empathy a core value—is key to how they grow. They take the time to make the interview go beyond questions on just aptitude and skill; they get to know the human behind the resumé. They learn about the person whose actions will define who they are as people to customers, partners and the marketplace.
Here is one of my favorite stories about a company who takes the time to really know about the people who might join their team, learn if they jive culturally, and probe to hire people with “light behind their eyes” and empathy in who they are as people.
Pal’s Sudden Service Decided They Would Screen and Hire for Character.
You wouldn’t imagine that a fast food drive-through would be so deliberate about how they hire that they actually screen for attitude and aptitude, but Pal’s Sudden Service does.
Know It—What’s Your Higher Purpose? Never having you speak into a microphone to place your order, face-to-face service is all they give. And they take great pains to make sure you feel you’re getting cared for as you’re ordering your burger and fries! How does your company understand who belongs in your culture and interacting with customers?
With over ninety percent of their 1,000-person workforce part-time and forty percent of them 16-18 year olds, Pal’s wanted to ensure that they could spot people of great character to represent who they are and be part of their team. And all at lightning speed! They have just 18 seconds at the drive-up window and 12 seconds at the food delivery window to connect with customers as human and caring.
Build It—Take Action: Pal’s went to school on how to hire by studying their own folks who were thriving. They turned those behaviors and character observations into a 60-point, psychometric survey to decide if employee candidates are a fit for Pal’s. Not your run of the mill application, here are a few non-negotiable questions candidates have to agree or disagree with:
- “For the most part, I am happy with myself.”
- “I think it is best to trust people you have just met.”
- “Raising your voice may be one way to get someone to accept your point of view.”
This is Pal’s secret sauce: instead of focusing the least on their entry-level employees, they focus on them the most.
Live It—Lead by Example: “We’re believers that birds of a feather flock together,” said Pal’s CEO Thom Crosby, speaking to the Harvard Business Review. “If you start having an operation with weak crew training and not a lot of really good leadership by managers, the people who apply there are the same kinds of people. We go the opposite direction.” Once employees are hired they receive 120 hours of training before they can work independently without their coach.
And Crosby and his leadership spend ten percent of their time daily mentoring team members on a skill or an aptitude. It’s a daily commitment that Pal’s provides to develop not only great fry cooks, but also, great humans. Pal’s is so clear about who they will and will not hire, that they don’t grow at a speed until a manager ready to lead a store. They won’t sacrifice their culture for growth, Crosby says.
Pal’s Sudden Service is a Character Coach.
The Impact: Pal’s employee turnover rate is one-third the industry average. They have lost just seven general managers in 33 years. Based on their success, Pal’s established the Business Excellence Institute; identified as being one of the leaders in food service training for leadership and management practices. They are the first restaurant chain to win the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Awards, a U.S. Department of Commerce award for business excellence. Inc. Magazine named Pal’s to its list of “25 Most Audacious Companies. Pal’s enjoys one of the highest revenue per square foot in the quick serve restaurant industry, with store revenue that has increased by about 300% since 1995.