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McDonald’s Training and Development Programme

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This paper is designed to assess the McDonald’s training and development programme. Through the compilation and research of available and know material in the subject, the most important points of the programme are highlighted. Through the comprehensive review of the programme the following were determined to be its most important factors: 1) suitability to employees 2) contribution to advancement 3) progressive quality 4) self assessing trait. These are important in designing an ideal system for training and development in any organization.


A survey conducted by the Association of Graduate Recruits (Cockroft, 2008) in the UK shows that 43% of employers acknowledge the growing problem of getting qualified applicants. Many of the applicants do not possess the skills and training usually required of a job. Even those who are university graduates do not receive the proper training in school to fulfil work requirements and job responsibilities. At the same time, a significant portion of applicants today are usually school leavers who do not have the real training or the proper theoretical background to actually complete a job.

In 2006 a similar study was conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (Cockroft, 2008). The results of the study show a considerable shift in the hiring attributes of employers. Today, most employers look for applicants who possess good work ethics and excellent personality with good communication skills. Academic achievement has taken the back seat. The premise behind this is that academic qualification is not necessarily a reflection of work aptitude.

Many organizations put a huge chunk of their financial investment into training and development. These organizations believe in investing in people and getting results (Collins, 2007). By providing employees a comprehensive program for skills development, a higher retention percentage is guaranteed, translating into low turnover among employees. By retaining talent, organizations are free to project and develop succession plans (Asuka, 2007). They also gain the confidence to plot career paths.

McDonald’s is one organization that invests a lot in training and development. Over the years, with this formula, the organization has developed a great number of individuals who stuck it out with them. At least 80% of their restaurant managers (Qualification and Curriculum Authority, 2008) now were former crew staff on hourly rate.

 “Developing people at every level, as the diversity and strength of our people provide us with the greatest opportunity for competitive advantage and view them as our most important asset. Many people see us in the hamburger business, serving people but in fact we are in the people business, serving hamburgers.” (Business 2000). This sums up McDonald’s philosophy on training and employee development.

When McDonald’s Corporation was founded by Ray Kroc in 1955, it was clear that the restaurant was going to be more than a place where hamburgers were served. Very early on, Kroc made sure his employees understood that efficiency and friendliness of staff are equally important contributions along quality of food, to the eating experience. Training, from the very beginning became an integral part of the whole organization. It was going to be the secret to Kroc’s success in the hamburger business.

Kroc’s McDonald’s is now a multimillion organization that dominates the fast food service industry. In fact, its contribution to the industry is so immense that Rey Kroc was named the Father of Fast Food. To date it has more than 30,000 stores around the world, serving at least 43 million people. In Britain alone, there are about 1,000 McDonald’s outlets (Wardill, 2008) that cater to over 1.2 million people each day.

The McDonald’s organization is determined to continue Kroc’s vision and put training and development of employees as its most important objective. Training is the key to its success (Floris, 2008). And for an organization that employs a good number of young and first time workers, training is essential (Vedder, 2008).

In 1961, Hamburger University was established to serve as the organization’s centre for excellence (Hamburger University, 2007). Its main role was to be the best in developing talent of people. Today, the university continues to offer courses in Hospitality to over 5,000 employees every year. It has also expanded to several satellite centres all over the world.

McDonald’s training and development programme is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive today. It is the significant bind that consistently prevails in all of its 30,000 or so outlets around the world. As a result of their training and development scheme, the organization has one of the highest retention rates among multimillion companies.

The founding of Hamburger University only speaks of how serious the organization is in investing on their people. It has revolutionized the role of Human Resource and its responsibility to providing the best opportunities for growth and progress to employees.

These are the reasons why McDonald’s and its training and development programme was chosen as the subject of this paper. It is one of the most dynamic programmes in the world. At the same time it is one of the most interesting considering where it is founded and where it is headed. McDonald’s also has the most documented training and development programme. It provides a strong basis for building new ones.

This paper is designed to provide a more comprehensive look into McDonald’s training and development programme. It will identify the most important attributes of the programme. At the same time it will discuss the contributions of the Hamburger University to the overall consistency in the organization’s operations.

The paper is set to assess the current organizational practices in training and development. Through the assessment of the programme, strengths and weaknesses will be underlined. It will show how strengths are sustained and how weaknesses may be addressed. The ultimate objective of the paper is to identify which attributes of McDonald’s programme are best to apply in creating an ideal training and development system.

There will be two parts to this paper. The first part will present a thorough discussion of the McDonald’s training and development programme. The second part will provide a conclusion of the researched materials and based on these materials outline an ideal training and development system.

It was only years before when McDonald’s was branded as an organization that provided low paying and labour intensive (Asuka, 2007) employment. Its restaurant crew were considered the lowest class in the employment hierarchy. In fact, McDonald’s employment was essentially labelled as dead end jobs that usually take advantage of young people and school leavers.

However in recent times, McDonald’s has overcome this scepticism that surrounds the organization. In fact it has successfully reinvented itself and the image of its jobs. In fact, McJobs, a term coined for employment in the organization, has gained a significant increase in terms of respect and acceptance within the scope of work legitimacy.

McDonald’s UK, to further boost the image of their employment came up with the “Not Bad for a McJob” campaign. Posters were strategically placed in all outlets around the country. It was to encourage the employees at the same time erase all doubts of the general public. The campaign was so successful it generated a 73% staff loyalty rating (Matthews, 2007) in the last survey conducted.

The training and development programme of the organization is set to build and enhance several skills that are required in the Hospitality industry. McDonald’s recognizes that they are in the industry of not only providing fast food service but more so people service. Employees need to develop skills that make their operations more efficient (The Times 100, 2007) at the same time increase the degree of satisfaction of their customers. To achieve these two important objectives, the organization has incorporated several levels in training and skills development. It is estimated that the average McDonald’s restaurant manager undergoes more than 2000 training hours in four years (McDonald’s Singapore, 2006). This is comparable with any four year course offered in university. The extent of investment in training and skills development is such that the organization had to create a centre for employee development, hence, the birth of Hamburger University.

Hamburger University

The Mission of McDonald’s (Asuka, 2007) is to “promote diversity and inclusion among our employees, owners, operators, and suppliers who represent the diverse population McDonald’s serves around the world.” From this the Vision of the organization is drawn out. “The McDonald’s system leverages the unique talents, strengths and assets of our diversity around the globe in order to be our customers’ favourite place and way to eat.

The Mission and Vision of the organization clearly put emphasis on employee development alongside customer satisfaction. With the organization having at least 60% of its employees at 20 years and under, it is necessary that appropriate skills are learned to achieve its goals. This is the primary reason why there is the Hamburger University.

The Hamburger University is located in Oakbrook, Illinois. It is a 12,000 square building situated in a 30 acre campus. There are 30 resident professors that could teach in 28 different languages. At least 200 students attend each class and in a year at least 5,000 is the total enrolment. Over the years, the university has graduated over 70,000 McDonald’s managers from all over the world.

Hamburger University focuses on the core values of the organization as its starting point to training. These are Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value (Hamburger University, 2007). The courses offered in the university are designed to imbibe these important characteristics in every employee. At the university, it is not only skills that are tapped and advanced but work attitude and ethics are also given equal attention.

There are two main training categories (Business 2000, 2000) offered at Hamburger University, crew training and management development. Every new employee has to undergo the crew training course. This is in addition to the 32 hours training received in the outlets during their first month of employment.

Under crew training, employees are inducted to the McDonald’s organizational system. Understanding that a significant number of their employees are young people who possess very little work experience, if any at all, the organization sees to it that they are properly introduced to the working world. At this level, employees’ communication skills are improved. Their self confidence is likewise considerably raised. Important areas concentrated on are team work, discipline and responsibility.

The new employees are also taught the different tasks under each station within the restaurant. At every McDonald’s outlet there are 11 working stations that constitute the flow of operation. The range is from dishwashing to frontline service. Every new employee is required to be familiar with them and the tasks that are under each. This training is meant to enhance the skills of their very young employees. Each year the organization spends an average of 3-5% of overall payroll cost (Comerford, 2007) to send their employees to training at the university. The budget is about US$ 212.00 to US$ 354.00 for every employee for the basic training programs.

Employees that are over 21 years of age and possess minimal management experience are offered the management development curriculum. This programme includes courses that enhance the employee’s management skills.

Courses offered at this level range from shift management to business leadership. Many of those who complete the course end up holding mid level management positions to top management positions within the organizations. However, it has also given many employees the opportunity to find equally lucrative management positions outside McDonald’s. Employees are deemed eligible for the management development curriculum through performance assessments conducted within a period of employment.

Through management development, employees are taught how to address important operational situations both in the restaurant setting and at the organizational level. They are tasked exposed to various suppliers and partners during lessons so that they learn essential aspects (Tshoegl, 2007) within the business environment.

The McDonald’s organization acknowledges the limitations of the Hamburger University in accommodating its hundreds of thousands of employees around the world. However, consistency in the way the outlets are run remains a top priority to the organization. Therefore, in recent years, several satellite Hamburger Universities were established around the world. They all teach under the same principles and work to attain the same set of values of quality, service, cleanliness and value. McDonald’s also recognizes and accepts the diversity of their employees. The main university allows its satellite centres to design their programmes according to the needs and requirements of their targeted selection (Business 2000, 2000).

The McDonald’s UK Design

A well trained crew and set of managers is the first step towards attaining quality, service and cleanliness (The Times 100, 2007), this is what drives McDonald’s UK in designing and conceptualizing its own training programme. For most part, McDonald’s UK sends their candidates for management positions to the Hamburger University in Illinois. However they conduct in restaurant training for crew and staff to expedite the process.

The training module applied to the UK outlets remains loyal with that of Hamburger University. The purpose for training is to unleash the potentials of its employees. Through teaching of consistent restaurant operational procedures, employees increase their level of efficiency and reliability. They also learn a degree of responsibility and accountability. Particularly for the younger employees, these are necessary tools to have while progressing in business.

It is documented that that organization spends about £15 million each year (Qualification and Curriculum Authority, 2008) in training and development alone. David Fairhurst, Chief People Officer of McDonald’s UK explains this practice of the organization, “An investment in basic skills represents an investment in the future (Cockroft, 2008).” True enough, 80% of the current managers in the region are former restaurant crew. About half of their executives had in restaurant experience (Qualification and Curriculum Authority, 2008). This is not exclusive to the UK however. In fact, this situation is common among all McDonald’s organizations. Employees are afforded career advancement that secures their tenure of at least 10 years in the organization. The extensive training and development programme has a great deal to do with this condition.

The McDonald’s training and development programme (UK) was recently named as one of five organizational programmes that will be accredited fro degree attainment. Noted together with airline Flybe and rail track operator, Network Rail, McDonald’s is now authorized to give out A-level and degree equivalent qualifications (Shipmam, 2008). This is part of the Leitch Review of 2006 that recognized employer led training strategy. For the McDonald’s organization an estimated average cost of £260.00 (Werdigier, 2008) for each of the 7,000 managers eligible for the program, or £1.82 million in one year.

This strategy is not free from criticism and scepticism. The inclusion of McDonald’s to the strategy all the more fuels the apprehensions. Critics agree that employer initiated A-level qualifications may have adverse effect in the decline of qualifications. Challenges are posed to “McJobs” and “McDonalisation” of work are raised.

Aside from this endeavour, McDonald’s UK is also working with the Qualification and Curriculum Authority in designing the first ever Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) for the organization. The QCF will be tested against the new Basic Shift Manager’s Course that will be piloted for one year. The course will cover lessons from basic restaurant operations to finance. It will also expose trainees in marketing and human resources functions (Qualification and Curriculum Authority, 2008).

The Leadership at McDonald’s Programme is likewise being established by the organization. Qualified managers are tapped through standardized performance ratings. They undergo training to develop leadership potentials at all levels. Major areas focused on are in customer service, marketing, and restaurant re-imaging. Through action training, trainees are expected to incorporate and emphasize innovation in their leadership techniques (Asuka, 2007).

Although there is no question about the strength of these training modules, concern is raised in terms of neglected relationship between staff and management. While the modules are designed to achieve the ultimate goal of quality, service, cleanliness and value, they primarily focus on external excellence. However, very little is seen in terms of internal merging among staff and management.

This concern does not slow down the growth of the organization however. McDonald’s UK remains one of the most successful endeavours in the region. It is also recognized as the most committed in retaining employees and attracting new recruits. It actually averages about 30,000 new recruits a year. It is also arguably one of the most determined in keeping employees highly motivated and committed in the industry.

Other Training and Development Highlights in Other Countries

The McDonald’s organization does not only encourage innovations and improvements among their employees. They also motivate country organizations to excel in designing programmes and procedures crucial to achieve the mission and vision set. In doing so the country organizations are able to take into account important cultural idiosyncrasies that may not necessarily be addressed by the umbrella organization (Floris, 2008).  However, country organizations are well guided by global guidelines in performance rating and training. These guidelines ensure that all country organizations remain loyal to the values of quality, service, and cleanliness to achieve the mission and vision of McDonald’s.

In the United States, the McDonald’s organization directly addresses concerns on the lack of desire for education. Many critics of the Hamburger University point out that the extent of training provided by the organization sends the wrong message to the young about education. That it is alright not to complete school because at McDonald’s you advance through acquiring skills in training. At the same time, since hiring is mostly based on attitude, educational achievement is no longer necessary (Good Work, 2008). On the other hand, McDonald’s in fact, puts considers education as very important. It values the very point of education. The Hamburger University was primarily designed to instil the value of education to its employees. Learned skills are most vital to advancement.

To make clear that education is a priority of the organization, it set up the McDonald’s Scholarship Program. Every year, employees who excel in education are recognized and awarded $1,000.00 scholarship. To qualify, a student employee must exhibit outstanding performance at school and at the same time excel in performance within the organization. Among these scholars, every year the McScholar of the Year is given to the most outstanding of them all. This employee receives an assistance of $5,000.00 for education.

In Australia, the relentless innovation to keep success is at the top of the organization’s priorities. In fact it is in this country that the McCafe was first designed and created. The objective of the organization is to continue setting benchmarks in the industry of fast food service. It founded the McDonald’s Australian Managing the Organization program to identify potential leaders in the organization. They work with suppliers to design programmes needed in assessing potentials. At the same time there is constant training conducted among the ranks.

McDonald’s Singapore has successfully gotten official accreditation for their training and development programme. Being named as one of the few University Accredited Programmes (UAP) in the country, it provides employees the chance for continuing education (McDonald’s Singapore, 2006). McDonald’s employees are now eligible to obtain credits that are internationally recognized to qualify for degree in British Commonwealth Universities. The programme is composed of 6 levels that all pertain to Hospitality operations. Those who complete level 6 receive Advance Diploma that is accepted in university.

Furthermore, McDonald’s Singapore tailored their training and development programme to match employees’ job functions. The programme is duly recognized by both the Training and Further Education (TAFE) of Australia and the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE).

Similar endeavours are being conducted among other country organizations of McDonald’s. Over the years, training and development has gone beyond old school of on-the-job training to familiarize employees with operations. Training and development has turned into a holistic education in operations and business orientation. Employees are assessed in terms of their adaptability to the system at the same time their capacity to advance organizationally. For McDonald’s this kind of system has resulted into a high retention rate among employees who over time develop necessary skills to succeed in the business.


After the assessment of the training and development programme applied in McDonald’s, several noteworthy points may be inferred:

  1. The programme is designed to address the quality of employees it hires. McDonald’s recognizes that most of their employees are either young students, 20 years and under and school leavers with no significant work experience. It provides the most basic information so that employees can cope with the demands of the working world. It addresses the most basic aspects of the business so that familiarity to the basics is gained.
  2. The programme is designed for advancement. The organization encourages skills improvement and knowledge enhancement. This opens opportunity for employees to advance within the organization through outstanding performance and excellent work attitude.
  3. The programme is progressive on its own. Country organizations are given the chance to design training and development according to their own needs and requirements. However strict global guidelines are applied to maintain a sense of uniformity.
  4. The programme is self assessing. It has the capacity to address concerns and attributes that may no longer be applicable. This is the reason why it has succeeded over the course of time.

The following points only show why the McDonald’s programme remains a viable system in training and development. Similar programmes may be achieved without the necessity to build a Hamburger University. To take into account the positive points of the programme already provides solid foundation towards an ideal one.


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Cockroft, L. (2008). The greenhouse effect: Growing your own talent. Personnel Today


Collins, J. (2007). Working at McDonald’s and lovin’ it. The Sun.

Comerford, M. (2007). Magna cum corporate. Chicago Daily Herald.

Floris, M. (2008). A recipe for talent. BRW (February).

Good Works (2008). McDonald’s USA national employee scholarship program. Retrieved on February 29, 2008 from http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/good/people/scholarship.html

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Matthews, V. (2007). Ethics: How HR can help staff to take a positive view on their employees’

ethics. Personnel Today (February).

McDonald’s Singapore (2006). McDonald’s gives employees a second change at continuing education. Retrieved on March 1, 2008 from ttp://www.mcdonalds.com.sg/mcdonald_s_gives_employees_a_second_chance_at_continuing_education.htm

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     status to enhance staff training and to reinforce training systems and standards. Retrieved on

    February 29, 2008 from http://www.qca.org.uk/qca_15781.aspx

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Tschoegl, A. (2007). McDonald’s-Much maligned but an engine of economic development.

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Wardill, J. (2008). Brits can now go to McDonald’s for McDegree. Independent Newpaper (January).

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