In addition to the engagement poll, Wendy’s conducted constant “pulse checks,” hosted employee gatherings at the corporate level, restaurant level, and made sure lines of communication stayed open amid the many ebbs and flows of 2020.
But Wendy’s communication efforts and efforts to be a "people business" would have fell flat without strategic weight, Esposito says. In 2020, the chain announced a host of enhancements to its benefits.
Effective at the start of 2021, these include:
Wendy’s expanded its paid-sick time policy to provide paid sick time to all eligible part-time hourly employees on a permanent basis. Accrued sick time can be used for absences due to illness, injury, and any other medical condition, including medical, dental, and vision appointments, whether for treatment or preventive care. Employees and applicable family members can tap in. This also extends into employees getting the COVID vaccine.
In Saleh’s workplace study, 4 percent of unemployed people surveyed cited “lack of childcare” as a reason to stay home. Surprising to some (including Saleh), it was a point higher than “earning enough from unemployment income.”
Wendy’s addressed this, too, enhancing its parental bonding leave for all eligible company employees following the birth or adoption of a child. Wendy’s will also support working mothers, it said, by reimbursing the cost of shipping breast milk during overnight business travel.
Also in Saleh’s study, “high pay,” at 54 percent topped the list of factors that would motivate someone to accept an hourly position. Right behind “good benefits, 47 percent” was “more flexibility with the hours or days I work.” That chimed in at 45 percent and directly reflects a shifting landscape where remote opportunities and gig options have become commonplace. Not to mention, personal safety concerns and the aforementioned childcare troubles.
Throughout 2020, many of Wendy’s restaurant support center and field office employees worked remotely.
And going forward, the chain devised a Flex Work Program that provides eligible office-based employees with options for flexibility in work schedules and locations.
This might not sound radical, all things considered, but you just need to turn back to March 2020 to realize how much this corner of the labor arena has shifted.
On March 2 to be exact (Esposito still has the note in her calendar), Wendy’s leadership met to discuss the notion of a flex-work policy. It was something that came up in its employee engagement survey; it wasn’t tied to the pandemic just yet.
“And candidly,” Esposito says, “we came to the decision that we weren’t ready for it.”
Within a week, Wendy’s didn’t have a choice. The entire above-restaurant group went remote as crowd avoidance became table-stakes. “That won’t all bounce back,” Esposito says. “We found we don’t need or want it to all come back to exactly how it was before.”
Beyond the pressing task of finding hourly employees, this decision helped Wendy’s recruit talent at the corporate tier, Esposito says. She calls the ability to list remote jobs a “game-changer in terms of the talent and the people we could attract.”
“But I think it just showed us over the last year that we don’t have to work in the same way, and we can still be productive and effective and to support people in what they need in their lives.”
Back in the trenches, Wendy’s invested in training and development programs across 2020. Employees completed nearly 5 million hours of foundational training systemwide, including mix of online and hands-on training in the restaurant.