Recruiting Operations and a Taco Bell Lesson…

RJ Morris Good HR, Policies, Recruiting, RJ Morris, Trench HR

Confession time at FOT. One of the dark secrets I carry from my college days is that I had an unhealthy relationship with… Taco Bell. I’m not proud, but there it is. I ran “for the Border” more than I (or at the time, my expanding waistline) would care to admit. What can I say? At 2 am, I liked a good taco supreme. Or three.

Now older, grayer and with a slower metabolism, I realize a few things. First, 88% beef tacos are freaky, no matter what the Border’s lawyers say. Second, and what I want to write about today: Taco Bell made getting those 88% beef-filled tacos crazy easy.

Here’s what I m talking about: Pull in to the drive thru, order a ton of grub, pay $3.87 for the bag and you’re done—the beauty of the late night food run existed because Taco Bell designed and executed a process that got cheap food in my belly fast, and that made a difference to me.

Apparently, it makes a difference to others, as well. BusinessWeek wrote about how process improvements play a huge part in the strategy at Taco Bell:

It’s as if the great advances of human civilization, in everything from animal husbandry to mathematics to architecture to manufacturing to information technology, have all crescendoed with the Crunchwrap Supreme, delivered via the pick-up window.

“The most advanced operational thinking in the world is going on in the back of a QSR,” (Quick Serve Restaurant) says Mike Watson, a former senior vice-president for operations at Wendy’s…The big brands spend hundreds of millions and devote as much time to finding ways to shave seconds in the kitchen and drive-thru as they do coming up with new menu items. “The majority of the business now happens around the back of the building,” says Blair Chancey, editor of QSR magazine. “So much money and R&D go into perfecting the production system because there is so much money to be had.”

I find this fascinating—they would rather improve back of house processes than introduce a new product. They don’t focus on mission statements and flowery strategies—they focus on wrapping the bean burrito as quickly and accurately as possible.

And that, folks, is the great lesson. Talent acquisition teams need people who can analyze a process and make it great. Résumé black holes, bad candidate experiences and applicant frustration are either caused by deficiencies in the process or deficiencies in the people managing the process. I want to assume it’s a process design issue, and that it can be fixed. Getting processes great is not “too tactical.”

I am not saying that you need to process engineer to the Taco Bell level (average drive thru customer interaction: 164 seconds, each of them under a microscope), but recruiting teams should focus on enhancing their core systems. We cannot discuss talent acquisition strategy if the operational side of the house is a mess.

Taco Bell pushes dollars toward “perfecting the production system because there is so much money to be had.” That, folks, is a nice reminder to stay grounded and make sure the operational side of the house is tight.

RJ Morris
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.