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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005April 15 — Best Places To Work

Advance Planning
Taco Bell’s succession-planning program drives work-force diversity.

Management at Taco Bell’s 6,500 locations is looking more and more like the multicultural customer base the Irvine, Calif.-based Mexican QSR serves. The number of African-American restaurant managers grew 8 percent in 2004, Hispanic managers increased 6 percent, and the presence of female managers rose 11 percent.

Minorities and women also advanced beyond unit management. The number of minority area coaches increased 7 percent last year, and female coaches grew 15 percent.

Leaders in the Making
While Taco Bell adopted diversity as a core cultural value over 10 years and included it in the company’s “How We Work Together” principles, the Yum Brands subsidiary’s diversity initiative got a boost from “Bench Planning,” a succession-planning program launched last year.

Taco Bell
Irvine, Calif.
Parent Company
Yum Brands Inc., Louisville, Ky.
2004 Systemwide Sales
$5.7 billion
Average Check
39,000 company, 130,000 franchise
Expansion Plans

75 in 2005; 100 to 125 in 2006

“We’ve asked each restaurant manager to create development plans for all employees,” explains Cornelius “Connie” Colao, chief people officer. “Given the large and diverse population of our restaurant employees, we’re seeing progress on all fronts.” Corporate Taco Bell units employ 39,000 people and franchise locations employ 130,000.

To guide their advancement, Taco Bell implemented a Leaders Forum in November. Modeled on sister company KFC’s Colonel’s Forum, the internal mentoring initiative provides a regional coach as a mentor for “high-potential minority employees,” Colao says. The coach receives formal mentoring training and works one-on-one with the employee on management and leadership skills.

“In addition, employees being mentored through the Leaders Forum have had two interfaces with our executive team since the program began. We’ve gone in and taught and trained them, which gives them great insights and exposure,” Colao adds.

Speaking of Advancement
Employees eager to advance to the shift lead position must possess a working knowledge of English, so Taco Bell is testing an English-as-a-second-language curriculum in Dallas, Chicago and Southern California. Managers administer the program, created by an outside vendor, to four or five employees at a time. The self-paced program involves workbooks and tapes.

“We’ve already promoted several of these individuals to shift lead,” Colao says. “We see this ESL training as helping not only in advancing the promotion opportunity, but also in improving teamwork as our people communicate better with one another. Also, these employees are now better able to communicate with customers.”

The company will expand the ESL test this year and roll it systemwide in 2006.

Such initiatives are affecting retention. Taco Bell reports hourly-employee turnover of 108 percent for 2004, down from 221 percent in 2001. General-manager turnover was 19 percent last year.

“The whole notion of developing team members and creating plans for them is making a big difference for us in terms of helping our work force to truly reflect the communities where our customers live, which is an incredibly important goal,” says Colao. “The fact that our people are employed with us twice as long as they used to be is making for a much stronger business and promoting a sense of unity and winning across the entire system.”

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