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McHappyFamily – great solution or just a gimmick?

02 February 2006

Is McDonald's new family jobshare scheme just a PR stunt to distract its critics from the bigger issues, asks Jonathan Knight, head of management consultancy at Tricon Foodservice Consultants.

We all know there is huge pressure on finding and keeping staff in the ever-expanding high street restaurant business and this is especially acute in the fast-food sector, where turnover in certain places is way above 300%.

One by-product of the recent expansion of the European Union is that at least the industry can spread its search for willing workers further afield, as regular advertisements for catering workers in the local press in Latvian and Polish, for example, will confirm.

Jobshare also has a growing prominence, often in the shape of new mums returning to work. In the hunt for capable hands in the UK's high street restaurants, employers will use all initiatives available.

It seems a bit far fetched to me at a time when McDonald's has drastically increased the complexity of its offer with the introduction of the Subway-busting "fresh for you" Deli sandwich offer.

It sounds as if they are potentially taking on a huge training task if they have to ensure that all family members are up to the growing range of tasks in-store. Additionally, the pre-employment procedure is potentially tripled, which is no mean task in these times of increased scrutiny of applicants' suitability to work.

I think we are all in favour of greater working flexibility -as McDonald's says, it helps reduce the number of sick days - but I reckon the company is in danger of creating an even bigger administrative headache without first addressing the real problem.

Rather than targeting cross-generational families, it would be much more realistic to persuade two or three fellow students to share jobs - after all, the store is more likely to recruit staff who project a McDonald's image more in keeping with its expectation.

Also, one of our recent staff surveys showed that "escapism" was seen as a benefit to be derived from being at work. This is a bit difficult to achieve if mum comes along for the next shift and shatters the illusion!

Also, speaking as a very young grandfather myself, I think I might relate to the average customer somewhat differently to my teenage granddaughter and I'm not sure if I'd be a great Brand Ambassador. Of course, I may not be a typical case and Percy might be a great role model …

No, it all sounds to me like a great gimmick. One to put McDonald's back on the front pages of the Daily Telegraph and other authoritative dailies, showcasing the group as a caring, sharing, innovative operation with proper social responsibility.

Anything to deflect the eye from the bigger issues of processed food, rampant obesity, and a visible contribution to the decline of a nation's health.

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