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CASE: 4  




As with most fast-food restaurant chains, McDonald’s needs more people to fill jobs in its vast empire. Yet McDonald’s executives are finding that recruiting is a tough sell. The industry is taking a beating from an increasingly health-conscious society and the popular film Supersize Me. Equally troublesome is a further decline in the already dreary image of employment in a fast-food restaurant. It doesn’t help that McJob, a slang term closely connected to McDonald’s, was recently added to both Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary as a legitimate concept meaning a low-paying, low-prestige, dead-end, mindless service job in which the employee’s work is highly regulated.

McDonald’s has tried to shore up its employment image in recent years by improving wages and adding some employee benefits. A few years ago it created the “I’m loving it” campaign, which took aim at a positive image of the golden arches for employees as well as customers. The campaign had some effect, but McDonald’s executives realized that a focused effort was needed to battle the McJob image.

Now McDonald\’s is fighting back with a “My First” campaign to show the public—and prospective job applicants—that working at McDonald\’s is a way to start their careers and develop valuable life skills. The campaign’s centerpiece is a television commercial showing successful people from around the world whose first job was at the fast-food restaurant. “Working at McDonald\’s really helped lay the foundation for my career,” says ten-time Olympic track and field medalist and former McDonald\’s crew member Carl Lewis, who is featured in the TV ad. “It was the place where I learned the true meaning of excelling in a fast-paced environment and what it means to operate as part of a team.”

Richard Floersch, McDonald\’s executive vice president of human resources, claims that the company’s top management has deep talent, but the campaign should help to retain current staff and hire new people further down to hierarchy. “It’s a very strong message about how when you start at McDonald\’s, the opportunities are limitless,” says Floersch. Even the McDonald\’s application form vividly communicates this message by showing a group of culturally diverse smiling employees and the caption “At McDonald\’s You Can Go Anywhere!”

McDonald\’s has also distributed media kits in several countries with factoids debunking the McJob myth. The American documentation points out that McDonald\’s CEO Jim Skinner began his career working the restaurant’s front lines, as did 40 percent of the top 50 members of the worldwide management team, 70 percent of all restaurant managers, and 40 percent of all owner/operators. “People do come in with a ‘job’ mentality, but after three months or so, they become evangelists because of the leadership and community spirit that exists in stores,” says David Fairhurst, the vice president for people at McDonald\’s in the United Kingdom. “For many, it’s not a job, but a career.”

McDonald\’s also hopes the new campaign will raise employee pride and loyalty, which would motivate the 1.6 million staff members to recruit more friends and acquaintances through word of mouth. “If each employee tells just five people something cool about working at McDonald\’s, the net effect is huge,” explains McDonald\’s global chief marketing officer. So far the campaign is having the desired effect. The company’s measure of employee pride has increased by 14 percent, loyalty scores are up by 6 percent, and 90-day employee turnover for hourly staff has dropped by 5 percent.

But McDonald\’s isn\’t betting on its new campaign to attract enough new employees. For many years it has been an innovator in recruiting retirees and people with disabilities. The most recent innovation at McDonald\’s UK, called the Family Contract, allows wives, husbands, grandparents, and children over the age of 16 to swap shifts without notifying management. The arrangement extends to cohabiting partners and same-sex partners. The Family Contract is potentially a recruiting tool because family members can now share the same job and take responsibility for scheduling which family member takes each shift.

Even with these campaigns and human resource changes, some senior McDonald\’s executives acknowledge that the entry-level positions are not a “lifestyle” job. “Most of the workers we have are students—it’s a complementary job,” says Denis Hennequin, the Paris-based executive vice president for McDonald\’s Europe.


  1. Discuss McDonald\’s current situation from a human resource planning perspective.
  2. Is McDonald\’s taking the best approach to improving its employer brand? Why or why not? If you were in charge of developing the McDonald\’s employer brand, what would you do differently?
  3. Would “guerrilla” recruiting tactics help McDonald\’s attract more applicants? Why or why not? If so what tactics might be effective?


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