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McDonald's on what's behind big hiring plans

Company looks to shine light on opportunities that come with a McJob

McDonald’s Corp. officials said the company’s plan to hire 50,000 people in one day presents it with an opportunity to show that a “McJob” isn’t a dead end but rather the start of a career.

With its National Hiring Day initiative April 19, McDonald’s will increase its workforce from 650,000 people in the United States to 700,000. The move comes at a time the brand’s growth is more likely to come from increased same-store sales rather than rapidly adding restaurants, requiring new hires to be trained by the leaders that have been educated at Hamburger University for five decades.

Chris Lyons, McDonald’s vice president of worldwide training and development, said at an event at Hamburger University on Tuesday that National Hiring Day would be the brand’s chance to counter negative perceptions of what having a “McJob” means for career development.

“I started out in the restaurants, came here to Hamburger University, and was a student and a teacher,” Lyons said. “It gives us an opportunity when we do an event like National Hiring Day for it to be more than, ‘McDonald’s is hiring,’ but, ‘McDonald’s has career opportunities.’ Many of us started in the restaurants and have grown to run the business, and this is a great way to tell that story.”

Several of the chain’s executives, franchisees and restaurant managers gathered at the Fred L. Turner Training Center in Oak Brook, Ill., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hamburger University, or HU, the school that develops McDonald’s employees for future leadership roles in the company. Since forming in the basement of a McDonald’s unit in Elk Grove Village, Ill., in 1961 and graduating an inaugural class of 15, HU now trains 5,000 students annually and has grown to seven worldwide campuses.

Nick Karos, the first dean of HU, was on hand for the festivities, as were the deans of the campuses in Shanghai, China, and Sao Palo, Brazil.

McDonald’s president and chief operating officer, Don Thompson, said the golden anniversary for the Golden Arches’ training university shows “the way we live our value of being committed to the most important asset we have in our system: our people.”

“The opportunity [for McDonald’s] to grow is enormous,” Thompson said. “The role HU plays in developing the future leaders and talent in the next generation is absolutely critical. As we focus on building the business through the Plan to Win [corporate initiative] and our global growth priorities of optimizing the menu, modernizing the customer experience and broadening our accessibility to reach more customers and more places, we know that HU will continue to play an even more important role in preparing our people to drive the business forward.”

McDonald’s has consistently grown same-store sales and earnings over the past few years even as quick-service competitors struggled through recession. While rival Subway recently overtook the mantle of world’s largest restaurant chain at the end of last year, McDonald’s has identified opportunities to grow average unit volumes like menu innovation and remodeling stores in the United States and abroad.

“Our future really is bright, in large part it’s bright because of the training and education all our people receive at this Hamburger University and the other six campuses we have,” Thompson said.

Maureen Getcliffe, the current dean of HU in Oak Brook, said the link between the leadership school and National Hiring Day is that both would let people know McDonald’s offers career growth.

“The responsibility for Hamburger University is to make sure our managers are trained and equipped with the proper skills to train our crew,” Getcliffe said.

Getcliffe said she knows the possibility for upward mobility at McDonald’s personally. Like many of the employees at McDonald’s Oak Brook headquarters, including Lyons and chief executive Jim Skinner, she began working at McDonald’s at the unit level. Now she oversees leadership training each year of more than 5,000 students tasked with growing sales at the chain’s more than 14,000 locations in the United States.

McDonald’s will make a greater effort to use social media to keep HU graduates connected to each other and company executives, and the Hamburger University Facebook page that launched recently is meant to augment existing distance-learning programs happening at all seven Hamburger University campuses worldwide, Getcliffe said.

McDonald’s has more than 32,000 restaurants in the United States and more than 100 countries, and about 90 percent of that system is franchised.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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