Are you lovin’ it?

McDonald’s jobs used to be referred to derogatively as McJobs, but times have changed and the company has made great strides in meeting staff demands, including for flexible working, KIT days and career progression for women.

When women on maternity leave were asked by fast food giant McDonald’s about what they most needed in order to ease their transition back to work, their top priority came as a bit of a surprise to managers. 
Flexible working, graduated returns and work life balance issues were in the top priorities, but women’s main concern was around receiving updates on changes within their department or restaurant as well as business information. 
“We conducted the research to try and find out what kind of things might be useful to factor in when women return to work,” says Mark Blundell, Head of HR Operations. “Our survey found that 80% of women wanted a business update and 80% wanted to gain a better understanding of what had been happening while they had been away from work.” 
He adds: “It can be very frightening being away for so many months, given what you  may have missed. In the past women have used Keeping in Touch (KIT) days to come into their place of work and get updates about what has been happening and, although this works well, it can be quite ad hoc.” 
As a result of its research, McDonald’s is looking at ways of making its KIT days more proactive. “The challenge is,” says Blundell, “that the McDonald’s structure is quite disparate so usually only a few people are on maternity leave in one area or one restaurant at any given time. We are looking at doing consolidated KIT days where four or five people come in together and receive an update. Also, we have a web-based extranet for all employees called Our Lounge which allows people to keep in touch and learn about what is going on.” 
Recently Our Lounge has been made more interactive. Before, it was more about McDonald’s as a company telling staff what was going on but now there is the facility for employees to ask questions as well as network with each other. 
Flexible working
Around 90% of McDonald’s 80,000 UK staff work in its 1,200 restaurants across the UK and therefore work very flexibly. The majority of these employees are paid on an hourly basis. Some 75% of the company’s employees are under 21 and 44.9% are women, which is just over the national average.  
Blundell adds: “Those staff who work in the restaurants operate very much within our 24/7 culture so flexibility is integral to our business model. It is essential that there is a huge amount of flexibility within our restaurants.  Some of this is the result of formal arrangements, but most is negotiated on a more informal basis.”  
A few years ago McDonald’s introduced its McTime system, which allows managers and crew members to access restaurant information online, including holidays and work schedules. It even allows crew to book themselves in for any unassigned shifts. This can be accessed day or night through remote interaction using any Internet-enabled PC or mobile phone.  The system has recently been formalised through the award-winning Friends and Family contract. The contract allows employees working in the same restaurant (from the same family or who are friends) to share and cover each other’s shifts, with no prior notice required, to best suit their personal arrangements.
The changes regarding flexibility were the result of the company looking at what employees around the world valued most. “We found the response from different countries was fairly similar in terms of the top three things people valued,” says Blundell. “Flexibility was number one. Most people who join do so because they cannot get the kind of flexibility we offer in other places.” 
In addition to flexible working in the restaurants, McDonald’s also supports formal flexible work applications in the office, as long as they do not cause operational problems. “We ask people applying to think about the impact of the kind of flexibility they are applying for,” says Blundell. 
Personal development
Other priorities identified by staff were team work/family spirit and personal development. McDonald’s has recently accredited its training courses with national qualifications and invests over £30million in training its staff every year. Since January 2009, McDonald’s has provided over 5,000 Apprenticeships for new starters and aims to provide Apprenticeships for up to 10,000 of the workforce per year from 2010 onwards. These Apprentices give staff the opportunity to gain a valuable, nationally recognised qualification, equivalent to five GCSEs grade A*-C, based on the acquisition and understanding of practical workplace skills, including communication and teamwork skills and a high standard in Maths and English.  
The Apprenticeships build upon the company’s nationally-recognised GCSE-equivalent qualifications in Maths and English, and offer a progressive route to its A-level equivalent qualification, a Level 3 Diploma in Shift Management. This aims to encourage staff who previously had low or no skills to study for more advanced qualifications on offer at McDonald’s and elsewhere.  
McDonald’s has also recently brought in some initiatives to encourage women’s career development. Its Women’s Leadership Development Programme targets women in the workplace with information on improving their skills, networking and building their confidence. The company’s Women’s Leadership Network is open to all women staff and helps women who are progressing through the system, enabling them to build contacts with members of the senior team. The network organises regular meetings with talks by outside speakers, including lifestyle guru Lynne Franks who spoke recently about women in business.  

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