When Diversity Shifts From PR to HR

by Aman Singh Das | September 07, 2010

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How does a company that serves 56 million customers a day across 118 countries become a leader in diversity hiring and retention? According to the inclusion and diversity team at McDonald's, it takes a combination of knowing how to leverage a multicultural customer base, a C-suite-led commitment to talent management, and academic-style learning labs.

At a unique benchmarking event held at McDonald's Hamburger University in Chicago last week, the team put forth presentations on how an emphasized strategy on companywide diversity is boosting the company's long term sustainability. The event was led by Global Chief Diversity Officer Pat Harris who recently authored a book called None of Us Is as Good As All Us: How McDonald's Prospers by Embracing Inclusion and Diversity.

McDonald's has had its share of challenges in recent years, most notable for constant attacks against its high-calorie menu. Campaigns like Eric Schlosser's 2001 book Fast Food Nation and Morgan Spurlock's 2004 movie Supersize Me added further ammunition to a growing debate on the role of fast food chains like McDonald's in America's obesity epidemic. These public outcries invited scrutiny to internal practices and a company culture that many alleged didn’t emphasize enough on nutritional and safety issues. They also weren't attracting credentialed talent.

Under intense scrutiny and backlash, the company initiated a complete cultural change. One that Pat Harris was an integral part of. While Hamburger University is almost 50 years old, a new training and development program was setup not only to mentor restaurant crew but also to emphasize leadership development and identify high potential employees.

In recent years, McDonald's has also hired a nutrition director, a former clinical dietician—who has a (double major) masters in food science, human nutrition and family and consumer sciences—tasked with providing nutritional science expertise and overseeing the company's nutritional information development process.

Evolving from a PR campaign to an internal hiring and retention strategy took years to implement. Once the C-suite prioritized diversity, however, the progress was distinctly easier. And today the many members of the inclusion and diversity team present a unified message: Ensuring a sustained talent pool within the organization led by a top-down commitment to diversity recruitment and leadership development. For McDonald's, this expands to diversity in the supply chain, informing and engaging their consumers on nutrition, community involvement, corporate responsibility as well as external branding.

Before I get to how they showcased their efforts, take a look at some statistics:

 

  • Women and people of color make up 73% of McDonald's total workforce, 43% of all franchise staff and 55% of their suppliers.
  • 298 Ronald McDonald Houses of Charity saves families of sick children $250 million in hotel costs annually.
  • 90% of all facilitators (decision makers) at McDonald's are internal promotions.
  • A majority of the senior management presenting at the meeting have been with the company for over a decade, with Pat Harris in her 35th year.

The company is opening two stores a day in its latest market: China

Clear message from leadership

McDonalds' growth today "is an accumulation of a lot of good decisions," according to Rich Floersch, vice president of HR. "The top three priorities for our CEO include leadership development and talent management," he said, emphasizing that this dedication has made McDonald's a training ground for high potential candidates.

As Pat Harris took us through the evolution of the diversity department—a process she has been a vital participant in—it was clear that her vision put diversity as central to every element of the workplace and product line. Starting as the affirmative action team in the mid-1970s and as part of the public relations department, the team shuttled between HR and PR before becoming diversity development and finally inclusion and diversity.

Last year, Harris got the thumbs up to expand the team internationally, initiating its present form: the Global Inclusion and Intercultural Management team. As the name suggests, the team's duties are numerous and touch every employee. From charting demographic metrics to managing employee resource groups (ERG), coaching and counseling services, mentoring programs, career development initiatives as well as external branding exercises, the team is truly representative of the way McDonalds' culture has evolved.

In the coming days, I will discuss how the different departments, notably, Education, CSR and Talent Acquisition weave a commitment to embracing diversity through every relationship, decision and strategic class.

Next: A former consultant redefines McDonald's Education labs

Filed Under: CSR

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