EngagementHow Honest Burgers boosted employee engagement and motivation

How Honest Burgers boosted employee engagement and motivation

HRD Thought Leader Debra Corey outlines how Honest Burgers has worked to engage employees and customers alike

As we move to the next phase of the pandemic, companies continue to face challenges and yet more difficult decisions. One of the most important considerations is where to go next. Do we go back to what we did before? Do we move forward to something new? Or is it somewhere in between?

We’ve already seen this acted out in how companies are managing their return to work plans. Some are going for full work from home arrangements, others are bringing everyone back to the workplace, others pursue a hybrid model. But as we know, there is so much more to it than just this.

Take Honest Burgers. 11 years ago, they started serving burgers and chips from a marquee in a field, and now operate 44 locations across the UK, as well as their own butchery. They’ve answered this question with their #betterthanyouremember campaign.

For their customers, it means finding ways to make the food and the overall experience better than they remembered it before the pandemic. For their 500 employees, it means finding better ways to support and engage them as restaurants reopen and they return to work.

I interviewed Oli Cavaliero, the company’s head of employer brand, who shared how they’re doing this with changes to their employee programmes and practices. What makes their approach so special, and why I’m excited to share it with you, is because it not only aligns with the theme of their campaign, but with their mission and culture, that is built around honesty and trust.

Here are just three of the many changes they have made to make them #betterthanyouremember:

1. New employee handbook

Employee handbooks can be some of the most disengaging documents created by organisations, being designed around the assumption that every employee is a potential fraudster. Furthermore, as we write in our book ‘Build it: The rebel playbook for employee engagement’: “If we want our employees to be engaged and on our side, fighting our battles and winning for the customer, we have to start with the premise that we’re not adversaries, but we’re actually on the same team.”

That’s exactly why Honest Burgers made changes to their handbook, removing what I call ‘unnecessary and disengaging’ parts. They worked with a solicitor to determine what really needs to go into it, stripping it back to make it better, and building trust into each and every word, going from 12 pages to just 10 bullet points!

“Our Employee Handbook looked boring, it was 12 pages too long and we didn’t think it sounded like us. We wanted a one-page document that outlines what we’d expect from being a good human at Honest and what you’d expect from your teammates” said Cavaliero.

They’ve changed it to something they can be proud of and wear on their sleeves, quite literally, as new employees receive a sweatshirt that has five of the ten points written on each sleeve. How amazing is that?

Here are just three of the ten points from the new employee handbook at Honest Burgers:

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  • Be human – treat people with care and trust.
  • Be local – support your community and make friends with your neighbours.
  • Be you, but please shower.

2. Four-week paid sabbatical

One area that companies have been addressing and handling in their own way is the matter of time, answering the question of how to give employees time to recharge and recover from the challenges they’ve been facing during the pandemic. Some companies have given employees an extra day off, others have created no-meeting Fridays, all finding the solution that is best for their workforce.

Honest Burgers have addressed this in their own way by creating a special four-week paid sabbatical benefit, which is two weeks more than their usual two-week limit. When asked why they decided to do this, Cavaliero said “With almost 70% of our workforce not being UK nationals, they were not able to travel home to visit family and friends over the last year, and have been missing out on this. We wanted to give employees this extended time to catch up with family or friends, or just take in the sights of London.”

So, until 2023, employees will be able to take up to four weeks of their unused holidays to do just that. When asked how they will manage the challenges of this, especially as they are a hospitality business, Cavaliero said “We felt it was the right thing to do for our people, so we’ll face the challenges and build in the processes we need to manage it. It goes back to the foundation of our business where we still cut our chips fresh each day, not doing frozen ones that may be easier and quicker, which is just not us.”

3. Paid private medical cover

Another key area that companies are addressing is wellbeing, answering the question of how best to support the changing (and increasing) wellbeing needs of their workforce. Again, companies have been doing this in a variety of ways, from giving time off, as mentioned in the previous point, to putting in place online wellbeing offerings, to providing wellbeing apps.

One way that Honest Burgers have addressed this is by putting in place a new employee benefit that is unheard of in the hospitality sector, which is providing all employees with paid private medical cover. Furthermore, it’s not just any private medical cover, but through Vitality, which has a proactive approach by encouraging employees to stay healthy by educating and rewarding them for healthy living.

“Personally I don’t think there is any more important perk than supporting your team to take care of their physical and mental health. Vitality is a perfect partner for us as our teams can access free GP, physio and talking therapy sessions. As well as a range of activities to keep healthy, blogs to read, videos to watch and the more you use your membership, the more free stuff you get – anything from a coffee every week to a free Apple Watch” said Cavaliero.

These examples from Honest Burgers have shown how they’ve answered these important questions as they move into the future. To help you answer these questions for yourself, here are three things to consider:

1. Be led by your mission and culture

One of the things I write and speak about often, is the need to do things in your own way, aligning with your purpose, mission, values and culture. That’s exactly what Honest Burgers have done, even if it meant making the more difficult decisions, staying true and focusing on their mission, culture and ultimately supporting their strategy of #betterthanyouremember.

2. Build in trust and engagement

Another thing that I am absolutely passionate about is the importance of building trust and engagement into everything we do. As we make these important decisions, take the opportunity to challenge yourself by asking – does this show my employees I trust them, or does it show them that I don’t? As I often say, too often we develop our policies and programmes for the less than 1% that will abuse them. Focus on the 99%, and at the same time, gain the vital trust and engagement of your people.

3. Be brave

Finally, and something I believe in so strongly that, often when I do presentations I put on my red superhero cape to make this point, is that it’s important that as we move forward, we are brave. Honest Burgers have done this in the three examples I shared; taking bold steps even when it meant making things more challenging to manage, but doing it because it was the right thing for them to do. So put on your cape, whatever colour it may be, and be brave in how you answer these questions and what you do next.

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