Call her a people person, if you will, but Christie Schatz’s desire to connect with others runs much deeper. So much so that she’s made it her career job: as Director of Talent at Sonny’s BBQ, Schatz is still passionate about coaching and developing talent and, most importantly, creating career experience. positive for the thousands of employees of the barbecue brand. “I loved every minute of it,” Schatz said with a smile one recent afternoon. “If I can have an impact in someone’s life, it’s so important. I take pride in trying to find amazing talent and provide opportunities for growth.
Schatz’s passion for his job is a big part of why Sonny’s BBQ has become famous for his famous work culture, based on kindness and respect as well as a desire to improve the lives of his team members.
“Employee handbooks can only get you to one company,” Schatz offers. “We learned a long time ago that we need to deepen our knowledge with our employees in order to know them personally. Largely because in restaurants we need to act quickly, and manuals and policies can only guide so much. Frontline team members need to respond in different ways to help create an exceptional customer experience. So culture, more than politics, helps guide our team members and their actions. People need to be able to show their true colors.
Throughout her more than twenty years at Sonny’s, Schatz says she’s made it her mission to focus on talent and culture. She is not just focused on bringing in top talent, but on nurturing and developing them. “We invest in great talent – we also use tools during hiring to predict performance,” she explains before mentioning that Sonny’s also focuses heavily on identifying “skills gaps” among employees. potential employees. “Because even though they may not have fully developed all of their skills yet,” she notes of future employees, “they may have incredible potential that we just need to explore. This is why I particularly like to identify young talents and bring them into the Sonnys family.
Talent and culture essentially go hand in hand, she says. Especially in the restaurant business and at a place like Sonny’s BBQ where positivity is a necessity. “If you don’t have great team members who align with your mission and values, it’s hard to build a strong culture.”
Schatz saw the evolution of culture at Sonny’s BBQ firsthand. When she started there in 2001, she admits they followed more traditional approaches to human resources: 360-degree feedback assessments, training managers in performance appraisals and creating manuals that no one knows about. would even open. “I quickly realized that these kinds of tools were turning against us,” she says proudly. “So we started to learn what really motivates people as we changed our culture,” she adds, and, to that end, “we started to focus more on listening , human connection, understanding what uniquely motivates people.”
Schatz relies heavily on science to support his talent strategy at Sonny’s. Specifically, she is a fan of positive psychology and focuses on personal strengths and work engagement. For her, it is essential to stay focused on the skills and the offers that people bring to the workplace, which gives them meaning and professional fulfillment. She adds that the insights from her learning journey have been “extremely helpful” in how she approaches talent at Sonny’s: “It gave me the foundation to understand how to best motivate and inspire team members. to be efficient and productive.”
The future for Sonny’s BBQ is bright, says Schatz. And she’d like to think it’s because of the positive culture she’s helped create there over the years. What advice would she give to those looking to follow in her footsteps and leave an equally impressive mark on their business?
“You really need to understand and stay focused on the employee experience and lifecycle,” she says. “It will inform everything you do. Whether team members stay for a while or continue their journey elsewhere, we hope we can have a positive impact on them, and that impact will move them forward to make the world a better place.