Loud and proud: Shake Shack’s recipe for an inclusive workplace

NEW YORK (Reuters) – If there is currently a key mantra for companies, it must be “diversity and inclusion”.

Shake Shack, President and Chief Financial Officer Tara Comonte poses in this undated photo. SHAKE SHACK / via REUTERS

With issues of race, gender, and sexuality coming to the forefront of American life, national administrations strive to compose channels of talent that are more like the nation as a whole.

Burger chain Shake Shack Inc. is enjoying a nice start to this particular race.

The New York-based commodity recently received the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for its LGBTQ-friendly job. Advocacy was even on the menu, with items like “Pride Shake”.

Reuters recently sat down with Shake Shack President and Chief Financial Officer Tara Comonte, a native of Scotland, to discuss the right recipe for mixing business and social principles.

Edited passages are below.

Q: Shake Shack has been named the “Best Place to Work” for LGBTQ employees for many years – how did it become part of the company’s DNA?

A: It has always been the first organization of people since it was born as a hot dog stroller in New York City. [Founder] Danny Meyer i [CEO] Randy Garutti has a number of principles they call “Enlightened Hospitality,” and that includes taking care of our team first.

It all stems from that.

Q: Did this focus on company culture stem from your time in investment banking, which was not positive for you?

A: I always tell people, “Learn just as much from experiences you didn’t like or bosses who weren’t great, as well as from fantastic ones.” Investment banking was simply not a culture I enjoyed or thrived on.

It was incredibly hierarchical, where the proxy for success was at your table early in the morning or late at night.

I also spent too many meetings in rooms that lack variety, trying to sell products that didn’t look like a room at all. One example is that I worked for this big world beauty brand, in a room full of 12 men discussing a mascara commercial.

I remember thinking, “This is the most bizarre conversation ever. No one in this room is even the target of this product. “

Q: How does being the first employed company affect attracting and retaining talent?

A: The war for talent is only getting more competitive. People must want to work and stay with you. Therefore, we must provide an environment in which each party in the relationship gives its best: the individual gives his best for the company, and the company gives its best to the individual.

That is why we are “all” in diversity, inclusion and equality.

Q: Since not everyone agrees on the LGBTQ issue, have you experienced any repulsion?

A: We are not trying to judge anyone and everyone has a right to their opinion. You won’t have everything on the same page all the time. But we will be what we will be.

Our North Star is that we need to work properly, as a business and a brand and a leader in the community. We need to have a belief in our beliefs and do everything we can to educate and be inclusive.

Q: You are open in discussing Imposter Syndrome – what was your experience at C-Suite?

A: Imposter syndrome is real and unfortunately women have it much more than men. That said, women need to have confidence in their own worth.

I had such a conversation recently, when a colleague was quiet at a meeting. I said, “Remember, you deserve your place at that table and we want your position. You have a valuable perspective to hear. “

The more you see the women at the table in the chamber, how they have voices and leading roles and bring great ideas, the easier it is for women to come.

Q: Diversity and inclusion have become a key topic over the past year, so what advice do you have for other companies?

A: Build a team that reflects the market you are trying to reach and the community you are trying to engage. This will trigger understanding and empathy and creativity, and the more successful you are.

Make sure each individual employee has an equal opportunity to go as far as they want. If you don’t, you’ll lose your main performers because people won’t want to hang out.

Reporting by Christopher Taylor of New York; Edited by Lauren Young and Matthew Lewis