One Question Every Organization Needs to Ask (Part 1)

Last week, Wendy and I went to a restaurant that only had a few customers. When we walked in, the hostess informed us the wait would be 35 minutes. “We only have one server tonight,” she said.

The current labor shortage is a real issue. As you’ve probably heard, millions are packing up their work belongings and moving on. The impact of this kind of turnover on a business is devastating.

Years ago, I saw how employee engagement and retention directly impacted the business health of Chick-fil-A restaurants. Part of my role when I worked there was helping Restaurant Operators build their businesses. As we looked at their restaurant, we began to notice a direct correlation between employee retention and momentum.

Employee engagement led to employee retention. Employee retention led to greater momentum. It was that simple, and that hard. That was true years ago. It’s still true today.

The labor shortage isn’t exclusive to the restaurant industry, though.  It’s pervasive and causing a lot of concern. As a result, now more than ever, leaders are taking a hard, honest look at the culture of their organizations. When they have the courage to do this (and it does take courage), they often discover a glaring reality:

They don’t have a strategy problem.  They have a culture problem. 

It’s not a head and hand issue.  It’s a heart and soul issue. Somewhere along the way, the organization lost its soul. A key indicator of this is when quality, once-committed-to-the-mission, people start leaving. Sure, turnover is always a reality. But when it starts to happen at a frequent rate the key issue isn’t strategy.  It’s culture. Something’s just not right.

When this starts to happen in an organization, leaders tend to double-down on strategy.  This sounds like:

“We’re going to try harder.”

“We’re announcing a new and improved strategy.”

“We’re going to start promoting the company more.”

While trying harder, introducing new strategies and advertising efforts aren’t bad, none of these address a key question that leaders often fail to ask when team members start walking out the door:

“What’s it FEEL like to work here?” 

On the surface this question seems like a touchy-feely, emotional, sappy question.  It seems like the answers are hard to measure and activate.  It’s far simpler, and less time-consuming, to launch a new strategy or give an inspiring speech than it is to ask this tough question and give it the time it needs.

And yet, the point isn’t giving this question the time it deserves. The point is giving the people in the organization the time they deserve. Next week, we’ll discuss this further with one practical tool many organizations overlook. In the meantime, take some time this week and ask this question. You’ll be encouraged. You’ll be surprised. You’ll get your feelings hurt. Most of all though, you’ll show the people you serve you’re FOR them.



  1. Brack Rowe on August 4, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    Great piece Jeff. My dad, who was a car dealer, always said you can get a lot more with honey than a bat. His philosophy, your family, health and faith, come before work. We had 110 employees and average employee with us was 11 years. Creating that culture, Love always wins. If they feel loved, you have an employee for life. And the results will take care of themselves.

    Look forward to more your posts.

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