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“We’re not just a restaurant company—we see ourselves as a people company. Where people come to grow and achieve their highest potential.”
You might know them for their Orange Chicken, but for employees at Panda Restaurant Group, the company is known for its dedication to personal and career development.
The word “dedication” gets bandied about a lot, but it really does apply here. Here’s what that commitment to growth looks like at this family-owned restaurant chain.
The company’s culture is defined by what they call the “Panda Way.” Four parts make up the Panda Way:
What’s remarkable is that these cultural values are more than aspirational words on an HR document. The Panda Way rings true in employee survey feedback – it’s their employees, and their honest opinions, that got Panda named to the 2020 Best Workplaces for Millennials™ list.
When asked what makes the company a great place to work, employees frequently mentioned the words “growth,” “grow” and “development.”
“Compared to other companies I have worked with, Panda truly exemplifies what it means to care about people. I feel like my team always has my growth and development in mind and challenges me to be better. They offer so many resources to develop myself personally and professionally. I really feel like part of the Panda family and look forward to staying for many more years. It really is a great place to work.”
– A millennial employee at Panda Restaurant Group
Employees also score the company high on statements about learning and recognition:
Compared to the average U.S. workforce, Panda employees score their workplace double in these areas. (The national average is between 39% and 47% depending on employee seniority.)
So what’s the secret ingredient that makes Panda a great company for millennials? Why is employee retention so high?
Here are some of the ways the company puts personal and career growth to the top:
When we analyzed over 267,000 employee comments for the Best Workplaces for Millennials list, we found that distinct from other generations, millennials described leaders as “connectors.”
Connectors go above and beyond typical managers by:
Panda’s management ticks all these boxes:
“Mentorship at Panda is about advocating for one another and coaching for personal and professional growth.”
“Our leaders take an active role in helping associates identify their goals at Panda as well as their personal life and how to achieve them. Whether it be to pursue higher education or buying a home. For example, one employee called her Regional Director of Operations before her family when she purchased her home because her leader was advising her through the complicated process!”
– Millennial employees at Panda
This style of leadership was often praised by millennial employees in Panda’s survey when employees were asked what makes Panda a unique and great place to work:
“Great managers who sincerely care for your growth and development”
“My manager teaches and explains to associates the proper way to do the job and why we do it. So they don’t just work for work – but are working for a purpose.”
Panda doesn’t pigeonhole themselves as a restaurant company, instead saying, “At Panda, our vision is to become a world leader in people development.”
With this vision, developing people and building effective teams are key competencies Panda looks at when promoting. While loving people management is not natural for everyone, Panda believes it can be cultivated.
“It starts with defining what your personal values and purpose are and helping managers understand the positive output of “servant leadership”—helping yourself while helping others.
“We then provide the tools and training to help managers lead better, so leading and managing people do not become a task they must complete but a growth opportunity that they willingly pursue.”
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be credited for developing emerging talent that might otherwise go overlooked due to unconscious bias.
Panda’s first ERG, their “Lean-In Circle” gives employees exposure to resources and mentors traditionally reserved for people at the top. The group was created to “encourage young talent and women to have open conversations about work, leadership, balance, and culture,” explained a millennial employee at Panda.
Very soon after the group was formed, the Lean-In-Circle diversified to include anyone who would like to join with the purpose of creating an inclusive and welcoming culture at Panda for all. Now, Lean-In is over 30 percent male and includes associates of all dimensions of diversity.
By creating a safe space for discussion through ERGs where everyone feels like they can belong, Panda has helped create equal development opportunities for all.
What sets Panda apart here is their holistic approach to training. Panda does more than invest in training for work – they help employees develop themselves outside of work, too.
Viewing employees as people – and not just cogs in a wheel– is what distinguishes high-trust workplaces from low-trust workplaces. By taking care of the whole person through training opportunities, Panda leaves a lasting impression on its employees.
“One thing that this company does is focus on the personal growth of its people. It is not only about professional growth, it’s also about how we are growing as a person,” said a millennial employee survey respondent.
Associates are given the opportunity to experience exclusive “Moments” with Panda Co-Founders and Co-CEOS, Andrew and Peggy Cherng, in a conversational environment.
This intimate setting and active engagement from their founders not only empowers associates with a stronger sense of belonging, but also provides a unique level of support for their personal and professional growth within the Panda family.
“Food service is one of the most complex industries to work at. It takes a lot of patience for management and executives to find and train people that would stay in such a high-demand and-high stress environment.
Panda has shown compassion to its evolving workforce by adapting to the need of its associates come rain or shine. As an immigrant whose first job upon moving in the U.S. is Panda Express, I did not expect to stay with this company for so long.
They saw my potential as an employee and surrounded me with the right mentors and training, that made me stay with this company.”
– Millennial employee at Panda
Like Panda, does your company:
ABOUT OUR METHOLOGY
To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.
ABOUT OUR METHOLOGY
The Best Workplaces in Asia List
Great Place to Work® identifies the top organizations that create great workplaces in the Asian and Middle Eastern regions with the publication of the annual Best Workplaces in Asia list. The list recognizes companies in three size categories:
To be considered for inclusion, companies must appear on one or more of our national lists in the region, which includes Greater China (covering China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau), India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka and UAE. For the 2021 Asia List, companies ranked on the national list in the Philippines will also be included. Multinational organizations must meet the following requirements:
Multinationals also receive additional credit for their efforts to successfully create an excellent workplace culture in multiple countries in the region. The data used in the calculation of the regional list comes from national lists published in 2019 and early 2020.