Three things I learnt at that first job at McDonalds that still serve me well today

12 Sep 2017

I'll be honest, school and me did not get on back in the day. No one really explained the importance or relevance of "Search for X" or why I should care about the Battle of Hastings. Worse, I had no role models and no one to mentor me. Perhaps that's why I'm a passionate advocate of the The Smith Family's iTrack mentoring programme. So perhaps I shouldn't have been terribly surprised when my career first launched at McDonalds. Of course, I didn't call it a career back then, it was a job that provided both money and Big Macs; I've cared passionately about both ever since.

So there I was, splendidly decked out in my paper hat and starless name badge, about as excited to enter the workforce as a turkey is during Christmas.

Although I expected to work for Maccas forever, the reality is they have a lot of churn: young people who are between school and university, and other people looking for short-term employment. As I thought about this years later, when I actually understood the meaning of words like churn, I realised that Maccas has a repeatable model to mitigate disruption and still keep the burgers frying and the shakes flowing.

Train, train and train some more:
Back then we didn't have eLearning, but there were very robust training options in place. Key individuals were nominated as "training squads" and newbies would be assigned an on-the-job mentor. If you happened to be in management, you might even get invited to "Hamburger University", where 80,000+ restaurant managers, mid-managers and owner/operators have graduated to date*. I enjoyed the training, I understood what it was for and very quickly I could flip a burger with a flick of the wrist.

What I learnt:
How to build an efficient and productive workforce in the shortest possible time, and how to build well structured training programs where everyone understands the context and expected outcomes.

If you build the business well, people will stay:
To get people to stay that little bit longer, and to reward everyone for consuming a lot of training, McDonalds were early adopters of "badging". Today, it's commonplace to get a digital badge for completing a level on a video game or completing a learning module. Often, as with Microsoft Certifications now, your badge of accomplishment can be posted directly to your social media channel, with LinkedIn being the obvious choice for working professionals. I have no data to prove that McDonalds successfully managed to get staff to stay longer, but there is a lot of evidence that badging in learning creates enthusiasm and competitiveness.

What I learnt:
Reward well, and reward often, not just at the end.

Would you like a training course with that order?
Again, I didn't realise it, but McDonalds taught me how to sell. We've all read books on how to get to "win-win" scenarios or how to start with "why". Distilled down, I learnt that it's about helping a client to get what they need, to an outcome that works for them, which usually involves changing their state from "hungry" to "not as hungry". If we could convert that "not as hungry" state to "full" by upselling to include fries and a large Coke (margins on drinks are HUGE), then we had even better outcomes for the clients, a true win-win situation. I can remember to this day a sticker on the back of the straw dispenser, which simply said..."Is that a large fries?". On the front of the till it said, "Does the customer want an apple pie?". Perhaps not as clear cut, but would you like a PRINCE2 Practitioner with that PRINCE2 Foundation?

What I learnt:
Actually, people tend to buy from people who they like, then you can supersize without them even knowing.

All in all, I learnt the value of learning and continue to pursue it at DDLS today.