“If Gini represents the next generation of leadership, we are all in amazing and capable hands,” says Joni Doolin, CEO and founder of workforce-data firm TDN2K. Quiroz, 33, heads up employee engagement at K&N Management, an operator of Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q and Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes, bringing in $11 million a year. Though not HR, her role involves “anything to do with our team members,” from helping them manage their lives to their careers. Her efforts are gaining her and K&N industry praise. K&N is one of only two restaurant operations to win the Malcolm Baldridge Award, recognition for excellence in management. We asked Quiroz for her insights on building a culture that resonates with nearly 500 employees and the industry.
How is your approach to employee engagement different?
The most important thing is to always have the best intentions for other people … Invest in people and make them feel important to you, which makes them want to work for you.
What sets you apart from others?
I don’t encourage the phrase “work-life balance.” It implies we have to be superheroes and find this balance that isn’t always possible. The scales will tip. I like to use “work-life blending.” Sometimes work requires more energy. If you love your work, it’s OK sometimes if your life isn’t balanced. People who work for you, unless you give them a safe space, are not going to come to you about blending their personal and work life. They need to know, as a boss, you’re not just going to talk to them about work. That’s why we start all meetings talking about what’s going on in everyone’s lives.
What are some of the ways you encourage employees to engage?
We have a team-member comment log, where [staff] can go in and offer comments, suggestions or complaints and get rewarded for their ideas. Everything down to finding a typo in our manual, where we give them $10 per typo ... And we respond to every single comment. Even the ideas we’re not going to use, we respond and explain why. We also hold town-hall meetings, which is very much like in politics. We have two a year, right before our strategic-planning meetings.