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4 min read

How McDonald’s® Achieves a Consistent Culture Across Locations & Countries

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 4 of a 9 part series.

Brad: [Earlier in this interview you explained the importance of using values as a foundation for your company culture.] One of the times the whole culture/value thing must really come into play is when you are selecting and onboarding, if that’s the right word, a new franchisee. You’ve got to somehow get them plugged into that fabric, which is not yet a part of them.

Len: Absolutely.

Brad: How on earth do you make sure you get the right people and help coach them through understanding the magic of your culture and values?

Len: Sure, there are three things. One is we do what we refer to as panel interviews. We are able to screen out quite a bit during these interviews. Just simply in terms of unrealistic expectations, or their particular view of what a franchise system would look like versus the reality of what McDonald’s looks like and how we operate. We don’t view the franchisee candidate as an investor, but as an owner/operator that has an important hands-on role.

It’s those high expectations that you’re going to be involved in the business, and you’re going to learn the business and you’re going to drive the business, because you own it and you operate it. That’s why we call it owner/operator. We don’t just say owner. You get into those panel interviews, and they can be very intimidating. We have the different disciplines represented and they come at things a little bit differently, asking really good questions of the individual.

Assuming they survive the interview, then we’ll do what we call an OJE or On Job Evaluation. The purpose of that is to give them a few days working in the restaurant environment, not only for us to be able to assess, ‘hey you’d be a good fit’, but also for them to say ‘hey this is way different than I expected’, no harm/no foul, and decide to move on. Or the individual says ‘you know what, I had a blast’.

Throughout this process, we are looking at the individual to see how they fit in culturally. How they react when it’s busy, and how they interact with teams, and the diversity within the crew, and the diversity with our guests as well, and how comfortable are they interacting with guests and so on. You go through that whole piece.

Then our training for new operators is very rigorous. They go through all the same training and courses that our crew do in the restaurants and then perform all the courses that our managers go through. They have to complete all that, all the way up to Hamburger University, before they’re an operator. At the different steps along the way, you know there’s conversations that are happening, and we’re answering the questions that they may have.

There really isn’t a guarantee for them until they sign the dotted line and actually the check passes over the desk for the new store. It’s something that we take very seriously for all the right reasons.

We choose who’s going to be part of the team. We take that seriously in the same way we choose our staff, be it corporate or in the restaurant as well.

Brad: That’s impressive. You’ve experienced and lived McDonald’s culture in at least four distinct places. The first one is the one we’ve been talking about, the Canadian store environment. You’ve also spent some years in Mexico. There’s the head office administrative side of things, and I see that you also look after the Wal-Mart operations. Those seem like pretty different cultural environments to me, all founded on presumably the same values and system. What are the differences? Where are the nuances here?

Len: You know what? No one has ever asked me that question that way before. I think honestly, Brad, I don’t see it to be different. I think that’s part of the magic and success of McDonald’s. What’s very unique about McDonald’s is that we achieve a consistent foundation worldwide. We’re talking today from a Canadian’s perspective, but you mentioned Mexico. It wasn’t any different in Mexico in terms of what I would call that underlying culture of the company itself. Some of my best friends are Mexican and we still keep in touch. At conventions we make sure that we get together, and we exchange Christmas cards and the whole bit.

I understand why you’re asking the question. We had a manager’s convention last week in Montréal and one of the things that I said in my presentation is that each manager creates the environment in their restaurant. I’m saying you create the culture within your restaurant. You are creating that culture that aligns with McDonald’s culture overall, or you’re defining a culture that isn’t in-line with McDonald’s overall. Sooner or later any sort of misalignment will catch up with you. You’re not going to enjoy the same kind of sales, guest count increase, or profitability at the end of the day. Restaurants that are enjoying the best results really do reflect the whole culture of who we are and what we’re about.

Certainly in the restaurant is probably where I had the most fun. There’s no question about that. I really enjoyed that. As senior corporate leaders, we spent a lot of time in the restaurants. Mexico was an incredible experience. When I was the Executive VP for Western Canada, to me that was just being a big store manager, to tell you the truth. All very exciting, all very different in terms of what you had to do, but again the environment that you worked within, and that you were making decisions on, was very similar.

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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