Boennighausen says Noodles & Company’s has made significant strides in the past two years. It realized that its labor goals weren’t all that different from its Zoodle directives, in terms of the audience. “What we have embraced,” Boennighausen says, “similar to our guest, which leans a bit Generation Z and millennial, so does our team member. So, the benefits that we’ve introduced over the last couple of years … we’ve been much more millennial friendly and Generation Z friendly with those types of benefits.”
Here’s a vivid example. In September 2018, Noodles & Company bolstered its Life@Noodles platform with what it termed a “groundbreaking” maternity leave program. Effective January 1 of this year, qualifying expecting and postpartum mothers were given the option to phase out and in to their maternity leave, allowing them to work an 80 percent schedule for the four weeks before and after maternity leave, while receiving 100 percent pay.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in nine women experience postpartum depression after giving birth in addition to sleep deprivation and difficulty managing breastfeeding. Noodles & Company’s aim was to provide a work-life balance that eased the transition, and took into account an issue many competitors ignored.
What’s been the response? Through April 2019, the company says, it’s seen a 93 percent retention rate for those employees who have used the maternity leave transition program. It’s witnessed 85 percent retention for workers who have gone on maternity leave, and it’s reported roughly 90 percent retention for those who have used Noodles & Company’s paternity leave option.
What this shows, Boennighausen adds, is something employers across all industries have noticed in today’s gig-driven and exceedingly-tight labor environment—there is simply more to the equation than money. Workplace happiness is one of the most important factors in today’s retention quest.
In a survey of about 2,000 restaurant professionals from 7shifts, a scheduling software platform, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they would like “public kudos” from management. More than 35 percent said the amount of recognition they were receiving was inadequate. Those planning to quit (at-risk workers) rated recognition from management a 3.5.
This is another concept Noodles & Company went directly after. Each restaurant now has a consistent recognition board, Boennighausen says. The company invested in awards for employees. Noodles & Company even has a “Super Noodler” honor, which is peer-nominated and given out monthly. “A lot of qualitative work around showing team members that we care about their future and that we care about their experience with us,” he says.
Noodles & Company instituted “people-time meetings,” where managers spend 10–15 minutes once a month with employees and clue them in. It also opens the door for communication and allows workers to make suggestions and feel connected.