2019 HRM Impact Award Winner


Name of project: Voice of Wendy’s

Summary of project: The Voice of Wendy’s (VOW) employee engagement program was implemented in 2016 and since then over 250,000 respondents, 5,000 restaurants, and 150 franchise organizations have participated. The survey is completed by both restaurant employees and people who work in roles supporting the restaurants.  The survey asks respondents to provide ratings in multiple content areas including: Employee Engagement; Job Characteristics; the Work Environment; Organizational Values; and the Employment Value Proposition.  

Each restaurant receives a customized report with item-level results and two areas of focus for action planning. The two areas of focus are generated based on the restaurant’s aggregate response pattern to the items on the survey that were determined through analytics to be key drivers of employee engagement.  The reports also contained comparative norms to the local division as well as a national quick service restaurant norm.  The survey is administered in partnership with our vendor SMG.  Based on our research conducted in partnership with the University of South Carolina, restaurants with higher employee engagement scores had higher customer satisfaction scores in subsequent months.  Highly engaged restaurants also had superior results on a wide variety of operational results including speed, sales, and transactions. Company restaurants with higher employee engagement levels also reported lower employee turnover. 

We provide a variety of resources for managers to utilize as part of action planning including sample discussion guides, action planning templates, and an online training video on how to interpret and take action on VOW results. Our research found that managers who took action on their two areas of focus saw significant increases in employee engagement in the following year.  The VOW program also included a new hire onboarding survey. Restaurants with employees who reported higher onboarding survey satisfaction subsequently had lower turnover, higher employee engagement, and better customer service scores.

Information about Wendy’s: Wendy's® was founded in 1969 by Dave Thomas in Columbus, Ohio. Dave built his business on the premise, "Quality is our Recipe®," which remains the guidepost of the Wendy's system. Wendy's is best known for its made-to-order square hamburgers, using fresh, never frozen beef*, freshly-prepared salads with hand-chopped lettuce, and other signature items like chili, baked potatoes and the Frosty® dessert. The Wendy's Company is committed to doing the right thing and making a positive difference in the lives of others. This is most visible through the Company's support of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® and its signature Wendy's Wonderful Kids® program, which seeks to find every child in the North American foster care system a loving, forever home. Today, Wendy's and its franchisees employ hundreds of thousands of people across more than 6,700 restaurants worldwide with a vision of becoming the world's most thriving and beloved restaurant brand. 

Quote from Wendy’s: “At Wendy’s, we aspire to bring joy to every customer. However, we know that our customer satisfaction can never exceed our employee satisfaction,” said Coley O’Brien, Wendy’s Chief People Officer. “The Voice of Wendy’s program provides us valuable insights into employee engagement. With record low unemployment, it is important that we create great restaurant cultures to attract and retain talent. We’ve found that the program’s employee engagement results are highly valuable because they are predictive of both bottom-line restaurant results as well as employee turnover. The Voice of Wendy’s program is a business tool that helps us measure and improve the engagement of our most critical resource – our people.”