How Chipotle plans to identify and grow future leaders
More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, some observers are concerned that today’s leaders have not received sufficient training to prepare them for the future of work.
A 2021 report by Development Dimensions International, an HR and leadership development consulting firm, found evidence of a decline in leadership skills training, formal assessments and feedback for leaders who transitioned to new roles in 2020 compared to 2019. DDI further observed that employers may have put some of these initiatives on hold during the pandemic and, without needed support, employers could soon find themselves with a “lost generation” of leaders.
Some organizations view development as necessary not just for supporting leaders, but also for retaining them. Fast casual chain Chipotle is one of several businesses to emphasize career development. The company recently launched an emerging leaders program, for which it selected 45 employees to participate in a nine-month program, said Marissa Andrada, Chipotle’s chief diversity, inclusion and people officer.
In an interview, Andrada explained how Chipotle implemented the emerging leaders program as well as how it plans to track progress in the coming years.
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted via email, and has been edited for clarity and brevity.
HR DIVE: What was Chipotle's initial goal for launching the emerging leader and mentor programs initiative? Can you talk a bit about the conversations that led you to start the initiative?
MARISSA ANDRADA: Our greatest asset is our "ChiPeeps," or Chipotle People. Our ChiPeeps' growth and development will enable us to meet and exceed our goal of having 7,000 thriving restaurants in North America. We sustain world-class people leadership by developing and retaining diverse talent, and the “leadership evolution and development,” or LEAD, program was created to cultivate the future leaders of Chipotle. Our mentoring program was designed to improve engagement and retention of early-in-career talent while providing real life development.
COVID-19 made training difficult for many industries, particularly food service and retail. What types of training have you relied upon during the pandemic? Which types will be utilized for the emerging leader and mentor programs?
Our purpose at Chipotle is to “cultivate a better world,” and our vision for people is to create an environment where everyone can thrive, pursue their passion and become lifelong leaders; needless to say, we're dedicated to enabling our ChiPeeps to accelerate their professional growth and personal success. This year, we launched a new learning management system in partnership with Docebo to empower our workforce with an immersive, AI-based learning platform that is helping to develop lifelong leaders.
We're also excited about our “school of leadership development” — a robust suite of curated offerings, including in-person, virtual and asynchronous modules. This includes the LEAD program, BetterUp professional coaching for emerging leaders in both the field and restaurant support centers, and our upcoming CultivateMe mentoring program that pairs front-line and field-based employees with senior operations and functional leaders in our support centers. We also launched on-demand learning through Udemy Business, which ensured that our ChiPeeps were able to meet their individual development goals during the pandemic.
You said Chipotle has identified 45 "emerging leaders" so far. Can you talk about what the title means for team members who are identified? What sort of things will they be expected to do once they are selected? And what sort of qualities does the company look for when identifying emerging leaders?
At Chipotle, we have a large pool of talent from which we selected 45 emerging leaders to participate in the inaugural LEAD program. The nine-month development program consists of development sessions, case studies, business simulations and coaching with a cohort of cross functional peers. After completing the LEAD program, graduates participate in the CultivateMe mentoring program as mentors for up-and-coming certified training managers and field leaders; additionally, they take their learnings to their respective teams to continue driving efficiencies in the business while pursuing our purpose of cultivating a better world.
We look for individuals who live our values, demonstrate our leadership behaviors and possess the ability and aspiration to succeed in roles with expanded scope and responsibilities. These highly engaged individuals lead through our purpose and contribute to our world-class culture. We're excited about their potential to drive our future growth!
How are managers and supervisors involved in the program? Are they encouraged to identify team members who qualify for the emerging leader designation?
All employees have quarterly 4x4 performance and development conversations with their respective leaders to reflect on their quarterly performance and development goals for the upcoming quarter. The 4x4 conversation provides an opportunity for regular coaching and development. Managers are encouraged to help identify high-potential employees from their 4x4 conversations and nominate talent to participate in the LEAD program.
How is Chipotle measuring its success with this initiative? Does it plan to perform this evaluation quarterly, annually or on some other basis?
We are thrilled with the performance of our first LEAD cohort. More than 30% of participants were promoted during the program. The cohort also fostered strong cross-functional relationships amongst our field teams, restaurant support center teams and operators from various regions.