McDonald’s Hiring Day Goals: Hire 50,000; Improve Image

Apr 18, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

McDonald’s is hoping tomorrow’s nationwide hiring push will get it more than the 50,000 workers it figures it needs to keep pace with sales.

As much as it wants to grow its workforce, the company is even more anxious to pump up its street cred as not just the place to go for a paycheck when you can’t find anything else. To combat its image as a provider of minimum-wage, dead-end, burger-flipping jobs, McDonald’s launched an ad blitz a few weeks ago to promote the event and its jobs as a pathway to a career.

Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA, told the Chicago Tribune that  company executives will appear at many of the chain’s restaurants to share their own career stories. Fields herself began her career behind a McDonald’s counter when she was in school.

In the interviews Fields is giving, she highlights the numbers of restaurant owners (50 percent) and corporate staff (40 percent) who started their careers working at a McDonald’s.

The company has also been beefing up its social media efforts. It now has a YouTube career channel with eight “Why I Love My McJob” type videos. None have received much traffic, despite being teased from the company’s Facebook page with a post saying, “Working for us can be much more than just a job. It’s a career that starts with you getting all the tools you need to succeed.”

The effort, especially when compared to companies like Starbucks or Hyatt, has a ways to go. For an event of the magnitude of a 50,000 target one-day hiring push, there’s nothing about it listed on the company’s “Events” tab.  Nor is there anything about it on the corporate careers site.

The company has tried before to improve its image. In 2005, two years after “McJob,” slang for low-wage, unskilled work, entered the dictionary, McDonald’s launched an ad campaign feature singer Macy Gray and track-and-field Olympian Carl Lewis, extolling the virtues of working for the company.

It’s going to be an uphill challenge convincing young people especially that frying hamburgers is the pathway to a career. Lance Haun, ERE’s community director, wrote in a post about the McDonald’s campaign:

How will the advertising campaign and hiring surge impact people’s perception of a McJob? Erasing decades of bias about a particular company or job in a week has no precedent of success. People build these views over years along with countless opportunities for confirming such bias.

If McDonald’s wants to rebrand the McJob moniker, they are going to have to make actual changes to the job itself, not just repackage it into something new or different (something that McDonald’s is brilliant at doing).

Even with youth unemployment in double digits — it’s almost 25 percent for 17-19 year olds and 15 percent for 20-24 year olds — McDonald’s has a hard sell. One restaurant consultant told the Chicago Tribune that Starbucks is the preferred employer. Starbucks regularly appears on the “100 Best Companies To Work For” list. McDonald’s doesn’t. Starbucks runs its own outlets and offers a consistent benefits plan, plus a location flexibility as well as flexibility in hours. McDonald’s is a franchise operation, with local owners setting policies, and transfers hardly as smooth.

Nonetheless, the company expects to get enough applications online and from walk-ins at the restaurants to fill the bulk of the jobs. Because of reference and other checks, it may be a few weeks before the hires are announced.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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