- Marissa Andrada is chief diversity, inclusion, and people officer at Chipotle.
- Andrada has focused on expanding Chipotle’s employee-education opportunities.
- She’s also championed DEI, helping lead Chipotle’s $1 million pledge to address systemic racism.
- This article is part of a series highlighting high achievers in HR called “Most Innovative HR Leaders.”
Marissa Andrada has been called a “people doctor.”
When Andrada, now the chief diversity, inclusion, and people officer at Chipotle, was growing up, her parents encouraged her to pursue a career in medicine. But Andrada was more inclined toward something sociological – people-watching is still a favorite pastime.
Andrada’s curiosity and openness have been critical leadership skills during the coronavirus pandemic. Chipotle, which employs about 88,000 people, grew its annual revenue by 7.1% and opened 161 new locations in 2020.
Under Andrada’s stewardship, Chipotle refined its approach to employee benefits and redoubled its efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This approach may pay dividends, helping the chain attract new talent at a time when employers across the fast-food industry are struggling to find workers.
“2020 reinforced my belief that the role of HR is to help an organization grow through its people,” Andrada said.
Andrada has led Chipotle in investing in employee development
Andrada’s philosophy on talent management is simple: “HR leaders need to have clarity on values, with a deep understanding of who the company is and what it stands for as an organization.”
Andrada joined Chipotle in 2018, after stints in HR leadership at companies including Kate Spade, Starbucks, and Gamestop. It was the same year Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol joined the company, tasked with overhauling the brand’s image after a series of scandals around food safety.
One of Niccol’s primary areas of focus was Chipotle’s work culture. Niccol previously told Insider’s Nancy Luna that he and his team did a lot of hiring his first year. “Corporations are only as good as the people they have and the purpose that those people believe in,” Niccol said.
To that end, Chipotle began investing heavily in employee development.
In 2019, the company partnered with the education-technology unicorn Guild Education and began covering employees’ tuition for a range of business and technology degrees. More recently, Chipotle expanded that program to include agriculture, culinary, and hospitality degrees. Andrada helped waive the 15-hour minimum requirement for employees to qualify for Chipotle’s education programs.
That year, turnover among Chipotle general managers hit 32.9%, marking a 15.1% improvement year-over-year, QSR reported. Turnover across the accommodation and food services sector was 78.9% in 2019, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2020, Chipotle promoted nearly 11,000 employees, HR Dive reported, and more than 70% of the chain’s general managers came up internally.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that New York City had sued Chipotle, alleging that the chain had changed employees’ schedules without sufficient notice or additional pay. In a statement provided to Insider, Chipotle Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Laurie Schalow said the lawsuit was a “dramatic overreach.” Schalow added, “Chipotle will vigorously defend itself. Chipotle remains committed to its employees and their right to a fair, just, and humane work environment that provides opportunities to all.”
Andrada champions DEI both inside and outside Chipotle
A global pandemic, coupled with anti-racism protests following the police killing of George Floyd, put extra pressure on Andrada and her team to support employee wellbeing.
Early in 2020, Andrada led Chipotle in expanding its employee assistance program to all employees, so that they could reach licensed professional counselors. Chipotle also provides health advocates to help employees navigate healthcare costs. Between March and September 2020, according to Chipotle, the number of employees using Chipotle’s EAP and advocacy services increased fourfold.
Andrada’s parents immigrated to the US from the Philippines and she considers herself a champion for DEI. She hosted virtual sessions on DEI that featured Black influencers as guest speakers and helped launch a new employee resource group focused on mentorship of employees from marginalized groups. Andrada also oversaw a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Urban League as part of a $1 million pledge to address systemic racism.
While human-resources leaders need to display business acumen, Andrada told Insider that talent heads should also remember they’re a voice for employees. She said, “You need to like people, see the best in others, and take time to listen to their perspectives.”
Aman Kidwai contributed reporting.
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