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Get to know life services expert Laurie beth Jensen

Why Jensen?

With one foot in HR and the other in marketing, Jensen has the express job of making employees feel good about their positions at Zoës Kitchen, the Plano, Texas-based Mediterranean fast casual with more than 110 units. Her title: Life Services. Her role: To cultivate the personal connection between corporate and individual employees amidst the company’s meteoric growth. In April, Zoës completed an initial public offering that raised around $90 million, and it plans to open another 28 to 30 units this year. Even with that much money flowing through the company’s veins, Jensen has found that it’s the little gestures that have the greatest impact.

What does life services mean?

Growth is a big priority [at Zoës], but there’s also a commitment to maintaining the culture. It is warm and fuzzy, but at the same time, it is a real thing. It’s about showing that our company does value our culture and our people. I’m here as a support, to be there for our team.

How do you show employees that they’re valued?

Zoës means “life” in Greek. So we launched Lifeboxes a year and a half ago. When someone gets married in Mediterranean culture, it’s customary to give Jordan almonds. When someone has a new house, we send a ceramic pomengranate, which is traditional in that culture, to put on their hearth as a sign of health, wealth and longevity. We wanted anything we gave to tie back to our Mediterranean culture. We also send Lifeboxes and hang a banners [for new hires] on their first day to help them feel connected before they walk through the door.

What is your typical day like?

I may work with the marketing brand team on a campaign. Or work with HR onboarding new team members.  The funny thing is we’re all here for the same purpose, to develop our brand through our people; our people are an extension of the brand. I also work a lot with guest feedback.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Just maintaining that one-on-one connection with the growth of the company. Our leadership team wants to have that open-door policy. They’re always posting [to our Lifeworks intranet] and talking to other team members, sharing their stories, recognition and feedback.

What has the response been?

It’s very positive. Our employees say they’ve never felt so appreciated before, that they’ve never had a company do this for them before.

What’s next?

We’re looking at ways to share [the program] with team members in the stores as well; the goal is by the end of the year. The question is how do we make it scaleable? How does that look on the unit level? 

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