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How McDonald’s® Recruits and Develops Leaders from Within

4 min read

How McDonald’s® Recruits and Develops Leaders from Within

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 6 of a 9 part series.

Brad: In terms of spotting who’s going to be a great leader and then mentoring him or her through the hard lessons of actually being one, what’s your perspective on that?

Len: It would be a couple of things. One would be making it very clear, per your staff, how they can grow within the company. So career pathing for sure. The second piece from the leadership perspective is it’s very important to have measures. Whatever the discipline is, there’s measures to apply so that you’re not just managing based on perceptions. It is easy to be fooled by someone that is very good at selling themselves, versus someone who may be a little bit quieter, but does things the right way.

Brad: Absolutely.

Len: And that’s why you need the measures, because the measures will show that. Then you recognize, okay there’s not a whole lot of substance to the one person, once you scratched the veneer off, but with the other one you start to realize wow there’s a lot there… a diamond in the rough.

So then that’s when you know you have someone you can develop. What do we need to do to help this individual grow? You begin to target, through your talent planning and succession planning, to be able to say okay which experience do we need to provide? Is it education? Is it experiential? What is it that we need to do to help this person now grow and develop? You realize it could be way more than perhaps what they even think.

Honestly, when you talk to a lot of McDonald’s people they just grew up and found their careers thanks to this environment. I look at it when I was 16 years old, when I started. Did I think I’d be where I am today? Absolutely not. When I graduated from university I didn’t have that kind of a vision.

There are people out there that said this is someone to invest in and created that right kind of environment. The recognition kept going back again to the values, and the things that they did to help keep me challenged.

Brad: Your seed team for developing your future leaders is on the floor, serving customers, right?

Len: Yep.

Brad: It is the 16-year-old.

Len: Yes, exactly.

Brad: How do you connect into that raw talent pool from a strategic leadership level?

Len: I’ll tell you a quick example then you tell me if this answers your question or not. You just have to be alive to the environment that you’re in. I had the opportunity in February to speak at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario to their business school students and their HR students. Went through the presentation and answered the questions. The questions are always the best part, way better than the speech.

I was talking about McDonald’s, who we are as an employer, and so on and so forth. At the end of it, a young gentleman came up to me afterwards. He introduced himself to me and he said “I work at McDonald’s”. I said, “Good, was it everything that I said, was accurate?” He said, “Oh yeah, it was perfect.” I said, “Okay well where is it that you work?” He told me the location in London and I said “How long have you been with us?: He said, “for seven years. I started when I was in high school and went to Western. I’ve got my MBA and now I’m at Fanshawe and I’m getting my certification for HR.” This was because he wanted to get the functional piece, so he could get a job. He said “Do you think I can get a job with you?” He started this week actually. He is our new corporate recruiter in Edmonton.

It’s just the one thing, honestly though Brad, that I realized is we have to do a better job communicating those opportunities in our restaurants for our staff. Just to say whether you choose to stay with us, or not, we want to be able to create that environment for you so that if you’re going to go off and be in finance, or be in marketing, or be in communications, or be in real estate, or whatever, you can build your career with us. We’re a big company. We have all those positions within this company. In fact, we have positions around the globe that you could grow into. I realized last February that this is a missed opportunity. We need to get the students thinking about us in a little bit different way in terms of that future that they could have with us. That’s something we’re pursuing a little bit harder.

Brad: There almost is sort of an alumni component to it, right?

Len: Exactly.

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

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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