The essay is based on a conversation with the owner of a restaurant in Florida. His words have been changed.
When we opened this restaurant in June of 2021, I wanted to lead with generosity.
The other part is pay, making sure we got a good wage. To give my teams more of a balanced approach to the job.
The term "the gift of time" refers to the time we have to serve our guests. Employees were left out of that equation. I wanted to give staff the gift of time by creating a scheduling system that would allow them to know exactly what days they worked.
I set out on a mission to see if I could create a more consistent schedule after my employees' days off changed dramatically. We used the existing three-day workweek that came out of it.
Six months in advance, employees can see the days they work on any given week. It was never a possibility before at Chick-Fil-A.
Before the restaurant opened, I started thinking about how to take the guess work out of their schedules. How do we get more consistent?
It is a revolving door at Chick-Fil-A. A new group comes in and closes the place up at one or two o'clock in the afternoon. Employees didn't like the schedule because they didn't know what day they were going to have off, and we didn't like it at all from a business point of view.
I began to wonder what it would look like to combine some of the shifts. Instead of doing 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., what would it look like to do 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
I began to think about what would happen if we split the team in half and took our team leaders with them.
I couldn't do a normal five-day workweek because of the long shifts. They would be working with the same group of people for three days. This would allow them to work well together.
The program began in February. It's for full-time staff who work 40 hours a week. We have 25 team members and 18 team leaders doing it and it is growing.
Managers were under the impression that they would have to be on-call during the days they weren't working when the 3-day workweek was announced. They wanted to know if I needed to be available if we were short. I didn't tell them not. Do what you want to do if you are off. Your time does not belong to me.
How are we going to communicate if the two groups don't interact with each other? The communication script that we use every week was one of the cool things that we did.
Every single thing that happened during the last three days of the restaurant is listed by the employees. The second Pod can read a mini rundown newsletter of what's been happening in the restaurant when they show up.
Managers asked us questions before we implemented the Pod system. It was constructive. From what we've seen, it's worked well and they're very intentional about communicating.
We posted a job for a full-time team member on the three-day workweek, and in a period of a week, we had 423 applications. There are people who want to work in this industry who were interviewed by us.
The retention has been good. The way in which we measure retention at the restaurant level is something I have never seen before. We would occasionally see people leave if another restaurant opened around us and they were paying more than we would. We don't get that anymore.
People have been removed from the program. The three-day workweek exposes the really good and the really bad because you're there for such a long period of time.
It has allowed us to discover up-and-coming talent that could have gone undetected. It was hard to gauge talent before we did this system because you had so many managers.
We've found with this system that we've been able to spot talent a lot faster than we've been able to before, we've been a little bit more Agile, and we've promoted people a lot faster.
A lack of career growth and development was one of the main reasons why people have traditionally left.
That growth was open up by this system. It allows us to put someone back through the development process when they are struggling.
When I look in the dining room, I see three or four tables with my leaders out there doing development meetings. I have never seen that before, but I see it on a day-to- day basis. They didn't have enough time to do it with the traditional schedule.
I don't think the three-day workweek works for everyone, but for those that do, it's really powerful to see how it affects their lives.
I talked to a manager who just graduated from the University of Central Florida. She's going to get a masters degree. She told me that she couldn't graduate if she were working the traditional five-day schedule.
I thought about what if we had not done this. Is she still a key manager? I know how important school is to her and her future, so when I hear that, it's pretty powerful.
A colleague told me that they took a road trip on their seven days off to see the leaves change. She took a road trip to New York.
They love their jobs, they love this industry, and they love working for us. They just wanted to change something. We just met them and said that this may not work for all of you. It's out there for you if you need it. It can be done.
It would have been a lot simpler for me to just keep doing what I've always done. It would have been a lot simpler and a lot less planning. I'm so thankful that I have the chance to do this. The impact that I'm able to have on my team is amazing.
Does this work for everyone? I'm not sure. Our team is happy, they are motivated, and they are eager to serve. Hopefully, other people will see that and try it out.