McDonald's has achieved a unique hat-trick by winning a Best Place to Work in Hospitality award for the third year running. Daniel Thomas discovers how its emphasis on training has paid off.
McDonald's UK invests £30m in training and development each year, and is the country's largest apprenticeship provider, with 10,000 places each year on its scheme
If there were a few ill-judged murmurs about the suitability of McDonald's as a Best Place to Work in Hospitality when the fast food giant picked up its first award in 2007, there can't have been any discontent when the company achieved a unique hat-trick in the 2009 awards.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of the hospitality industry, or business in general, knows that McDonald's - for so long plagued by accusations it only offered people "McJobs" - has become synonymous with great employment practice.
Nicky Ivory-Chapman, reputation and resourcing manager at McDonald's UK, says being named a Best Place to Work once again is a positive sign that outdated misconceptions about McJobs are being consigned to the past.
"We are delighted to have been recognised for our commitment to flexible working, quick career progression and providing development opportunities for all staff, such as the new apprenticeship scheme," she says. "2009 was a tough year for many businesses, but we were able to continue investing substantially in our people. We are extremely proud of our workforce and our record when it comes to providing valuable training opportunities for all our employees."
The apprenticeship scheme Ivory-Chapman refers to highlights the scale of McDonald's ambitious employment strategy. The company aims to provide 10,000 apprenticeships each year, giving employees the opportunity to gain a nationally recognised qualification (in "multi-skilled hospitality") that is equivalent to five GCSEs, grade A*-C.
This scheme - which means McDonald's is the UK's largest apprenticeship provider - is complemented by other development opportunities, including the chance to gain other nationally recognised qualifications, from GCSE-equivalent Maths and English to an A-Level equivalent management diploma.
They all form part of an annual £30m investment that McDonald's UK makes in training and development - something that has not been affected by the recession, according to Ivory-Chapman.
"We feel it is important that employers play their part and do as much as possible to continue to invest in training, especially when, like McDonald's, they are growing," she says.
"This is part of our commitment to better equip our staff, but also part of what we can do to help the UK economy so we can come out of the downturn quickly.
"Being served quickly by friendly, motivated and confident staff is a big part of our success, which is why we spend so much on training our employees and making the jobs attractive," Ivory-Chapman adds.
"These schemes have contributed to continued improvements in customer service and have helped reduce staff turnover to an all-time low."
Reading through the employee comments received as part of the judging process, it soon becomes clear that staff feel intense pride at working for McDonald's. This is also backed up by the numbers: according to the latest independently-conducted Your Viewpoint employee survey, 79% feel proud to work at McDonald's, while 94% believe the skills they gain would be valuable to other employers.
And while McDonald's recognises that many of its employees are working for the company to put a few pounds in their pocket as a first job or to pay their way through university, its recruitment policy remains consistent, says Ivory-Chapman.
"Our approach to recruitment means we hire on the basis of attitude rather than experience or qualifications," she says.
"No matter whether these people joined us fresh from school with no qualifications or with a degree, we pride ourselves on creating an environment where everyone has the chance to achieve their full potential."
In early 2009, McDonald's opened its doors to Leeds Metropolitan University, the Government's adviser on social mobility. The university found that almost half of the employees had two or more indicators of social disadvantage. One in five had experienced unemployment prior to joining McDonald's and one in five had responsibilities as a carer.
"They concluded that McDonald's is enabling people who might not otherwise have had the chance to gain practical and transferable skills - whether that's a national qualification they can take elsewhere, or structured, long-term career progression," says Ivory-Chapman. "For example, 90% of restaurant managers and 20% of franchisees started as crew members."
The message is clearly getting through: 2,000 applications are received every day, with 14 applications for every crew position available at McDonald's.
This of course means many applicants are left disappointed and it was with this in mind that McDonald's began working with the Work Inspiration movement, which aims to improve the first experience of work for more than 500,000 young people every year.
"The campaign demonstrates how much UK businesses can do to bridge the gap between school and work," says Ivory-Chapman. "It also means that every business - regardless of whether or not they are planning to hire a new wave of young talent in 2010 - can support the long-term employability of our future workforce.
"A successful placement will not only enable a young person to add value to the organisation during their stay; they will also gain an in-depth understanding and practical experience that will help them onto the first rung of the career ladder."
McDonald's is clearly about more than flipping burgers. With nationally recognised qualifications, work experience placements and apprenticeship schemes, it could well pass for a Whitehall skills department. And it would be a brave person who bets against another Best Places To Work victory in 2010.
WHY IS MCDONALD'S A BEST PLACE TO WORK?
This year, for the first time, Caterer invited employees of the nominated companies to comment on why their employer was a Best Place to Work in Hospitality. We round up some of the views of the McDonald's staff:
â- "The shared common values and goals within the company make teamwork come naturally and enhance the workplace, making work easier and more enjoyable."
â- "My workplace is fun to be in and fast-paced - one day is never the same as the next. The flexibility of working hours is also helpful, while the training helps us maintain good relationships with colleagues and customers."
â- "McDonald's is a great place to work because you are recognised for the effort you put in - at the end of every shift we are praised and thanked for the work we do. There are career opportunities that I probably would never have had if I worked for a different company. I look forward to going to work every day."
BE A BEST CANDIDATE TO WORK WITH
The Best Places to Work awards focus on employers' responsibility towards investing in training and development. However, employees should share that ownership.
View your CV as a passport into your ideal role that shows why you would be an ideal employee. Take time considering the skills and attributes that will make you a one in a million worker and take every opportunity to share the skills (both life and business) you have learned. Present yourself to employers as the "Best Candidate to Work With" - would you win?
For more details about the Best Places to Work in Hospitality awards 2010, contact Lisa Goold on 020 8652 3656 or email@example.com.