Dr. Bob’s Reads: “Chipotle: Driving the Mission”

My purpose is to help people flourish by enhancing the health of organizations.  As a part of this purpose, I am committed to sharing best practices regarding purpose-driven leaders, teams & organizations.

Today’s best practices come from Joy Metcalf’s article in CTDO Magazine entitled “Driving the Mission.” Metcalf’s article details Chipotle’s “cultural transformation” which was started in 2018 and is led by Marissa Andrada (Chief People Officer).  Andrada is focused on helping Chipotle enhance their food integrity and increase retention of hourly employees.

Key aspects of Chipotle’s cultural transformation:

  • Chipotle has answered the question of why they exist and uses this purpose to guide all that they do. “Chipotle is on a mission to cultivate a better world. The fast-casual restaurant infuses this mission in everything it does, and that is a driving element of its talent development initiatives.”
  • Chipotle’s vision for their people is informed by the question of: “How do we create a culture where our employees can thrive and pursue their passion?  Because to deliver this amazing food to our guests every day, at the center of that are our 80,000 hourly employees.”
  • Andrada’s approach is similar to the service-profit chain concept of employee experience / engagement driving customer loyalty – “Training plays a significant role in ensuring that Chipotle employees provide both quality food and a consistent experience to customers.”
  • Effective onboarding of new employees is one of the cornerstones of a positive employee experience – “Crew members go through a roughly two- to three-week onboarding program, depending on the number of shifts they work, as well as quarterly food safety training. They also learn on the job as they work.”
  • Providing employees with a career road map fuels their engagement – “All crew members have a training guidebook that they build on as they go through different training levels. The process of learning all the roles within the restaurant is long term and is a journey that employees have a hand in driving.”
  • Language is especially important with respect to employee experience – employees are referred to as “crew members,” training materials are “guidebooks” and using the word “journey” to describe the employee development process.
  • The relationship between front-line employees and their supervisor / manager heavily influences the employee experience – “Chipotle recently launched Cultivate U, a corporate university for field leaders and general managers to develop leadership and management skills.”
  • To retain hourly employees, Chipotle has enhanced their benefits by “offering employees no-cost mental healthcare and debt-free college degrees.” Andrada states “We want people to feel like we care about them beyond just the paycheck.”
  • “Further, Chipotle reimburses employees — and their families — for expenses related to high school degree completion and English as a Second Language programs. “We believe that cultivating a better world starts with our people and then the ecosystem around them, which is their support network and family,” Andrada states.


As we move forward through COVID-19, Chipotle’s focus on authenticity and employee wellbeing will serve them well.

  • Authenticity will become even more important as we continue to earn and build trust with all stakeholders – “One of Chipotle’s four values is “Authenticity lives here.” Andrada says, “Our food is real, and so are we. We want to make sure that all of our employees feel like they can bring the best version of themselves into their work and to their work environment.”
  • In the COVID-19 world, employee wellbeing comes center stage – “On 1/1/20, Chipotle began offering all employees and their families free access to mental healthcare and mental health counselors. And although it is a new employee benefit, Andrada says she and the benefits team are already seeing employees embracing it. She also notes that employees are afforded the time they need to pursue their educational goals and their mental and health wellbeing.”


Bottom Line

Chipotle’s transformation of their culture began in 2018.  During 2018, their stock went as low $255 per share.  As of 5/28/20, their stock is trading at $1,004 per share.  An important driver of these financial results is Chipotle’s focus on:

  • Living an authentic purpose (“Cultivating a better world”),
  • Enhancing the employee experience of their customer-facing employees and
  • Equipping and supporting their front-line supervisors and managers.

At Purpose & Performance Group, we help courageous leaders design and execute cultural transformations.  We look forward to hearing your ideas and helping you with your journey.


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