11.11.2015

The Earls Experience

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Earls Kitchen + Bar had been measuring engagement for 12 years, and three years ago they missed getting into Aon's Top 50 Best Employers list which prompted them to take a deeper look at engagement. Engagement at the store level hovered around 70% with only 35% participation. Meanwhile engagement in their head office was dropping significantly year over year.

Without a tool to properly measure and take action on employee engagement, it was hard to make positive change. They were asking questions but not aligning their strategies to correct the issue. The survey that they were using was time-consuming for participants to complete and expensive to administer. Partners (Earls’ term for employees) found that the questions took too long to answer -- many of which were very corporate and not relatable to their experience at work. 

Earls switched to delivering more user friendly employee engagement surveys through Culture Amp. Using the survey tool, Partner Experience surveys are now conducted companywide in the fall and spring. In between these periods, short pulse surveys go out to select groups in the business that may have low engagement so that they can quickly identify and take action on these issues. Their first Culture Amp employee engagement survey had 86% employee participation and a 73% employee engagement rating. 

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Earls motto is, "great guest experiences begin with great partner experiences." The partner experience is one of the key success indicators for the company. Employee engagement, leadership, enablement, alignment and development are measured. They seek feedback frequently because the feedback helps drive their business strategies. Past survey feedback has contributed to company initiatives and programs like Vision + Goals (a goal setting and personal development program), guest experience training delivered via eLearning, and changes to their compensation and benefits program.

“The Earls Experience is about leadership, it’s about people, it’s about development and growth, and we have fun,” says Janis Tong, Earls Senior Manager of Content and Digital Strategy. “Our company’s soul is to live a large, purposeful life filled with fun, and so we try to inject that through all our communications, training programs, and make sure it’s integrated into everything we do at Earls.”

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Last September, Earls took advantage of the the flexibility of the Culture Amp system to conduct a pulse survey specifically for their kitchen partners. They had been getting feedback that front-of-house employees were receiving more training and back-of-house partners wanted that as well. With the survey, Earls was able to ascertain that employees needed to feel more connected to their culture, as well as what was needed in terms of training and development. This feedback will help mold future programs and initiatives that have a direct impact on kitchen partners.

Recently, Earls launched a new guest experience training program that will be provided to all their front-of-house partners. In the past, this training was face-to-face and took place on-site when a partner was first hired. Now, the course has shifted to a combination of face-to-face training and eLearning. Having not done a lot of eLearning, Earls designed a survey to see how effective the new training is and how they can improve it.

“Any time we push out something new, we use the pulse survey as a tool to see how the program or initiative is working for our people, and that’s really important for us to measure effectiveness and how we can improve it going forward,” says Tong. “We’ve been really happy with the tool. The fact that we have this tool to capture feedback really quickly and easily is awesome and we’re going to be using it a lot more going forward.”

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Looking to the future, Earls wants to make the partner experience as positive as possible.

“Ultimately, we want to be the top career destination for young people in North America, and so we’re making sure we’re walking the talk, and being authentic about who we are,” says Tong.

Earls has big expansion plans in the U.S., with new locations that recently opened  at Tysons Corner in Virginia and the Lincoln Park development of Chicago, IL.

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