In the current business climate, it can be challenging to see how In-N-Out Burger was able to top a list of best places to work in the U.S., but it did.

Right now fast food restaurants are at the heart of much debate concerning employee wages, work-life balance, and overall work conditions. Employees and activists all over the country are protesting what they say are unacceptable wages being paid to fast food employees, and these protests have actually spawned a national debate over the federal minimum wage.

About the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards 2015So how is it that In-N-Out Burger has not only managed to avoid much of the negative attention associated with fast food restaurants right now but actually be rated as one of the best places to work even over Facebook, Apple, and Adobe?

About the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards

Glassdoor is a site that provides transparency into what it’s really like to work for companies around the country and the world. Much of the information supplied on the site is from the people who know best—the employees themselves.

For seven years, Glassdoor has released the Employees’ Choice Awards, which showcase the best places to work in the U.S. The site also has a similar set of awards for U.K.-based companies.

The awards are based completely on feedback from employees, derived from anonymously submitted reviews. Employees comment on specifics about working for their company as well as their overall satisfaction, and using a unique algorithm, Glassdoor issues the awards for the best companies.

In the midst of so much controversy surrounding working at fast food restaurants, how did In-N-Out Burger manage to fare so well that it earned a top spot on this popular and widely-known survey?

Many people believe it’s closely tied to their focus on employee training and development, something that’s not often an important area of concentration in other fast food environments.

The In-and-Out Burger Story

In-N-Out Burger is a regional chain maintains a focus on employee retention. Rather than simply hiring employees who will leave shortly thereafter, Rich Snyder who once ran the company established a concept where the focus would be on developing employees that could help his company grow.

In 1984, Snyder started In-N-Out University, a training center that was designed to fill the manager pipeline and allow the company to consistently deliver quality service and cleanliness.

The result of this training focus is one that remains. In-N-Out Burger has an extremely low turnover rate, particularly compared to other fast food restaurants where employees rarely stay more than a year.

Today’s Training

The legacy of Snyder, who passed away in 1993, continues at In-N-Out Burger.

Their website says the following about associate training:

At In-N-Out Burger, we believe strongly in promoting from within and that training is our future. In fact, it’s so important that our dedication to providing excellent training and development for all of our Associates is outlined in our Purpose/Mission Statement.

In-N-Out Burger also clearly defines the levels of development. Level 1, or the Entry Level step, includes the backroom, counter service, and janitorial assignments. Level 2 focuses on providing drive-through window service, counter and walk-up order service and service within the dining room. Level 3 is French fries or drive-through orders, while Level 4 is French fries and drive-through orders. Level 5 is the salad table, and Level 6 is a cook (but only if you’ve passed all other levels).

Employees are able to see a defined career path immediately when they work at In-N-Out Burger, which tends to improve not only retention but also morale and motivation. When employers are developing workers so they can be promoted within, what they’re actually doing is strengthening their own bottom line by focusing their efforts on creating the best possible employees.

This is important to note in the world of fast food, where employees are often the make or break factor. Employees are the people who are most often in contact with the public and who provide the “face” for the business, so it makes sense to nurture them and focus on their development, so they maintain a positive face.

As well as having employees who work through the various levels of development, almost all of the restaurant’s managers are promoted from hourly associates.

It’s typically worth it for entry-level associates to stick around and participate in as much training and development as possible because managers at the burger chain make a salary of about $100,000 a year.

While In-N-Out does pay associates slightly more than the minimum wage, it’s not necessarily the pay that keeps these hourly employees happy and sticking around for longer. It is the approach to training and development.

Other employees can really take note of how things are done at In-N-Out because it’s paying off for not only managers and employees but also the company itself. The woman who took over as president of the company in 2006 is one of the youngest female billionaires in the world.

In the fast food world, restaurants like McDonald’s are struggling to stay afloat, and the key to more success could rely on training employees more thoroughly and creating career paths for successful employees.

The key, regardless of industry, is providing employees with a clear path toward promotion and development, paired with strong learning tools. Using e-Learning is an excellent way to deliver training consistently, even in a very fast-paced environment.

It’s simple for employers to track training and progress so you can identify high-performing individuals, and even hourly and minimum wage employees will feel more positive and motivated if they feel that you’re investing in their long-term success.

Plus, companies with lower turnover rates also tend to be the best in other ways.

In-N-Out Burger is a great example of just how much investing in employee training and long-term development can make for a great overall culture, but also improve your bottom line and your performance.

What do you think about In-N-Out Burger’s approach to employee training and do you think it’s one of their primary keys to success in a competitive and often controversial industry?

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