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5 min read

How McDonald’s® Uses Values to Anchor its Culture

This is a transcript of a live Leadership Conversation between Jostle CEO Brad Palmer and Len Jillard, Chief People Officer for McDonald’s Canada.

"It is the value piece that drives the behaviors and drives the whole underlying culture that exists at McDonald’s"

This is a transcript of a live Leadership Conversation between Jostle CEO Brad Palmer and Len Jillard, Chief People Officer for McDonald’s Canada. This is part 1 of a 9 part series.

Brad: A big part about what Jostle does is driving culture and enabling employees. It sounds like we’ve got a lot of common ground here. McDonald’s is amazing… I’m totally impressed with your National Hiring Day. Wow! In a single day you really hired 6000 new employees in Canada?

Len: Yes we did.

Brad: Deploying, I’m not sure that’s the correct term, the McDonald’s culture across this never-ending wave of new employees must be a huge challenge. You have to nurture a consistent culture across 1400 different locations, correct?

Len: Yes.

Brad: How do you make the cultural part of that happen? The part around task-based training seems pretty straight forward, but how does the more subtle, cultural part of onboarding new employees happen?

Len: We use a very consistent approach, and not just for employees. Whether it’s the crew person at the front counter, in our boardroom, or in terms of how we interact with our store operators or with our suppliers. We look at our company as a three-legged stool: our owner/operators are one leg of the stool, our suppliers another and the corporation itself is the third. When you have three-legged stool you can’t have one leg shorter than the other, or one leg not as important as the other, because it’s going to fall over.

This is kind of unique. We hear consistently from our suppliers that they feel very engaged with the business. They feel almost a part of who we are as a culture. Our relationship with store operators is very collaborative and a key part of our extended culture.

There are a number of things that we do to really make sure, from a cultural point of view, that we’re all working together. There is a lot of alignment there. There’s a lot of communication, a lot of teamwork, and a lot of involvement.

I think if you were to ask our suppliers, and certainly our operators even more so, that it really does come across more as a partnership. It’s working together and collaborating together to come up with what the best solution is because we all come at it from very different ways. As a result of that, there is a real energy that gets created around it. Certainly, from a three-legged stool perspective, that happens.

If you take the next step, and ask what drives that kind of philosophy, what you’re looking at is really a reflection of what our values are as a company. It is the value piece that drives the behaviors and drives the whole underlying culture that exists at McDonald’s.

We educate ourselves. We educate the operators. We educate our suppliers and we certainly educate all new staff coming in that there are seven values that we use and that we look at as a company. It impresses me how big we are, yet we’ve got that real consistent message that’s simple and everybody can understand. To me, this all about our focus on the seven values that underlie our culture, and the behaviours that reflect these values.

To keep it really simple, in terms of a crew person coming in, the number one value, or the first value, is to put the customer at the core of all we do. That makes it really simple to explain to a crew person at the front counter, or in drive through, what the job is. The customer comes first. Make sure that whatever you’re doing with that guest coming in is that you’re taking care of them. If there is something wrong, cold fries or a wrong soft drink, or whatever, just go ahead and replace it, because the customer is the most important priority.

The second piece tied in with that, and to me that’s very critical, is that we are committed to our people as a value. When you look at our two primary vision statements; the first one being everyone’s favorite way and place to eat and drink. That’s our guest-facing or customer-facing vision. Then for our employees, it’s our employee’s favorite way and place to work. These two vision statements tie back into the values. I mentioned the first two values. There are another five which are: believe in the McDonald’s system, operating the business ethically, giving back to communities, grow the business profitably, and strive to continuously improve.

With respect to the employee piece, we spend a lot of time developing this as a global initiative. It’s very interesting because it really ties into what we sort of already knew intuitively here in Canada, but we were able to validate it. We went across the globe and interviewed over 5000 of our crew and asked them why do you work at McDonald’s? What makes McDonald’s special? What makes it a great place to work?

I remember being in Chicago and we had all these 5000 slips of paper and we had to prioritize them into the different themes. It basically came down to three things and that was family/friends, flexibility, and then the third was future. What we recognized from talking to our employees is that they come to us with different expectations. For the first time ever we’re dealing with four different generations in the workforce. So, how do you make sure your employee value proposition really ties in with the four different groups? What we found was family/friends, that’s pretty consistent, it’s social.

People like it and it’s fun. Whether you’re 15 or 70 years old and retiring, it was all about family/friends and just a really great feeling.

Flexibility was the second theme. For me, when I started as a McDonald’s crew member, it was about being able to play hockey. The way I wanted to play hockey, I needed a flexible schedule. That’s the only reason I went to McDonald’s. But for someone else, for a mom let’s say, she wants to see the kids off to school each day and she wants to get back in the workforce. McDonald’s makes it possible for her to do that. For someone coming out of university; it could be the start of their career. McDonald’s offers them a flexible career path.

That ties in obviously with the future theme. I’m not the only one that started serving customers in a restaurant and progressed to a senior position in the company. I always find it fascinating that here in Canada 50 per cent of our owner/operators started as crew, and have been able to go through and build a corporate career and to do extremely well, and then have moved into the franchisee community and to become very successful entrepreneurs.

I think that really speaks to the strength of our culture, the strength of that three-legged stool, the employee value proposition of family/friends, future, and flexibility; and then certainly those seven core values that really drive the behaviours that we’re looking for and that makes us a cohesive team.

Leadership Conversations publishes each Monday and Wednesday in the Jostle Blog. Subscribe to make sure you do not miss the next episode.

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About Len Jillard:

Len began his career with the company in 1972 in London, Ontario as a crew person. He has worked in a number of mid and senior management positions throughout the Canadian operation. Len also spent three years, from 1995 to 1997, with McDonald’s Mexico as the Senior Director of Operations.

In January 2002, Len became Vice President of the Western Canada Region, overseeing all aspects of the Western Canadian operation. In 2005, Len was named to his current role as Senior Vice President, People Resources and Chief People Officer, in which he is responsible for carrying out the McDonald’s People Promise to value each and every employee across the country.

Len has always made it a priority to dedicate his time and expertise to McDonald’s charitable efforts, serving on the board of Ronald McDonald House in London, Ontario for more than seven years and as a member of the Society for Ronald McDonald House Vancouver.

About Leadership Conversations:

At Jostle we recognize the importance of people-focused leadership. In fact, we are so passionate about how leaders engage employees, drive culture and catalyze collaboration that we seek out top people-oriented leaders to explore these topics with us through our Leadership Conversations series in the Jostle Blog. If you know a people oriented leader you feel should be included in this series, please contact us at leaders@jostle.me. There is no requirement that they are using the Jostle People Engagement® platform.

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