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The Official Baldrige Blog

A Customer Guarantee Absolutely Dependent on Workforce Engagement


"To guarantee that every guest is delighted because of me" is the mission of Baldrige Award recipient K&N Management. Along those same lines, its vision is “To Become World Famous By Delighting One Guest at a Time.”

Those are pretty lofty goals whose achievement is ultimately dependent on each and every workforce member, because the vision and mission clearly spell out what each workforce member is to do—delight guests. And the owner and operator of Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes, as well as the licensed area developer of the four Austin area locations of Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q, has invested in its workforce to ensure that each member can do just that. Part of this investment is really caring for, listening to, and engaging the workforce in support of both the customers (guests) and the community.

Allyson L. Young, HR and Brand Director, K&N Management, who will be speaking at the upcoming Quest for Excellence Conference, says, "We can’t achieve our mission or vision without the best people. If you don’t spend the resources to select, train, engage, and retain the best people, you or your managers will spend the majority of their time and energy dealing with workforce issues. We strive to treat our workforce as our internal customers, build relationships, and create an experience for them that will leave them delighted.”

Recognized as one of the Top Places to Work in Austin, K&N Management builds and maintains a focus on “guest delight,” relying on innovation and technology to create product offerings that meet or exceed guest requirements. For example, guests can access store information and events via web sites and social media, as well as through large monitors that display important information about the brand and community outreach efforts at each restaurant location. Feedback is collected with a tablet that administers short surveys right at the table and uploads the information to a third-party host for aggregation. Takeout guests are directed to a Web-based survey.

To attain this guest delight, leaders know that the workforce must be engaged. One successful example of K&N’s approach to workforce engagement, says Young, is K&N's Team Member Care Team. "We have two full-time associates who spend their time helping our people solve personal problems before they become work problems," she says, adding a Theodore Roosevelt quote that pretty much sums up K&N's workforce philosophy: "People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

K&N Management strives to retain its workforce by offering a comprehensive set of above-market benefits to team members who average at least 30 hours per week. For all categories of workers, turnover rates are lower than industry averages. For example, at the time it received the Baldrige Award, K&N Management posted a turnover rate for production workers that was less than 50 percent, in contrast to the industry average of 85 percent. K&N Management’s absentee rate was slightly more than 1 percent, compared to 5 percent for the best competitor and 3.5 percent for benchmarked organizations. Over 95 percent of K&N Management team members reported they were proud to work for the company.

During the Quest conference, Young will be presenting some of the organization's top tips for using the Baldrige Excellence Framework to support workforce engagement across its sites. For example, she says, use the framework to identify gaps, then put together cross-functional strategy teams to benchmark best practices in or outside of your industry, create an action plan, and close those gaps.

At her session, participants will also learn how K&N Management uses strategic planning to continuously improve workforce engagement. Every year, it is one of our strategies, she says, and we have implemented several key workforce engagement processes since receiving the Baldrige Award in 2010.

Young added that service industries, especially in the hospitality industry, among other types of organizations, can benefit from Baldrige:

  • The Baldrige Framework promotes innovation, which promotes learning and continuous improvement in every part of the organization.
  • Many small businesses, especially restaurants, are family-owned and operated and are simply reactive to the environment. When applying the Baldrige Framework, leaders become more disciplined in terms of long-term thinking, which results in more proactive problem solving and continuous improvement.
  • Many business owners are concerned about the future and sustainability. The Baldrige Framework provides the guidelines for operational excellence, which results in long-term profitability and sustainability.

What if your organization's mission and vision were absolutely dependent on each and every workforce member? Do you have the workforce engagement to take that chance on behalf of your customers?

Register now for the 28th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference to attend this session, "Workforce Engagement: Delighting Our Internal Customers" from K&N Management, as well as other sessions from role-model Baldrige Award recipients, past and present, from every sector of the U.S. economy.


About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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