Striving to be the “best first job,” McDonald’s knows many of its employees are at the beginning of their career path. Some, still in high school, may not have the resources to attend college and are beginning to wonder, “What happens next?” Some may be working to finish high school or college to gain the skills and education requirements needed to take the next step in their careers. Still others may be looking to sharpen their English skills to communicate better with customers and open more doors in the future.

With an estimated 1.9 million employees dispersed across the globe, supporting employees’ unique personal and professional goals would call for an innovative, comprehensive, solution — which is why McDonald’s launched Archways to Opportunity® in 2015.

The Archways to Opportunity program helps McDonald’s employees across the globe improve their English skills, earn a high school diploma, work toward a college degree, and create an education and career plan with the help of career advisors. With the recently launched Archways to Careers app, McDonald’s employees can now access many of these professional development opportunities — and new ones — at their fingertips. Rob Lauber, chief learning officer at McDonald’s, says the app helps employees “find and unlock” their passions, identify related career opportunities, and make a plan to achieve them.

Let’s examine how McDonald’s has integrated professional development into the employee experience to set its workforce up for success not only at the Golden Arches but in life.

Archways to Opportunity: A Brief Overview

Since its launch in 2015, Archways to Opportunity has:

  • Awarded high school and college tuition assistance to over 35,000 employees, totaling over $90 million.
  • Had over 750 employees graduate from its career online high school program and over 7,250 employees graduate from English Under the Arches (launched in 2007).
  • Increased access to education for over 50,000 people through its various programs.

While these initiatives undoubtedly benefit employees, they’re also good for business. For example, McDonald’s believes English Under the Arches has helped retain employees. Through a blended learning approach, the initiative seeks to teach employees the “English skills that restaurant employees need most,” such as common words and phrases they will encounter on the job.

McDonald’s education benefits are another way it attracts and retain employees in an industry currently facing a major labor shortage. Its employees are eligible for tuition assistance after working at least 15 hours per week for 90 days. Crew workers are eligible to receive $2,500 per year, and managers are eligible to receive $3,000 per year.

As John Colborn, director of the Aspen Institute’s Skills for America’s Future initiative, explains, “When companies like McDonald’s provide these kinds of programs, they not only enhance life opportunities for their workers, they also gain a more engaged and talented workforce.”

With the benefits the Archways to Opportunity program has brought to both employees and the company, Lauber says it “made perfect sense” to take the next step in supporting employees’ professional growth: launching a career development app.

Archways to Careers: Vision, Strategy and Measurement

Vision

McDonald’s launched its career development app, Archways to Careers, to supplement the Archways to Opportunity program with “personalized, one-on-one” professional guidance, Lauber says. By providing learning on demand, the app also aims to help reduce common barriers (e.g. transportation, costs and scheduling conflicts) for employees looking to advance their careers.

Strategy

Unlike an in-person course or workshop, Lauber says, an app proved the best way to “touch as many people as possible.” For busy restaurant workers, it’s critical that they can access everything from career coaching to English courses on the bus ride to work, between the breakfast and lunch rush, or in the comfort of their own home.

With help from an existing partner and a coaching company, the app took roughly 10 months to build. A key part of the process was seeking and implementing feedback on the app’s progress to ensure the finished product would meet employees’ needs and deliver the value it was expected to, Lauber says. As the app is largely targeted toward learners who are just entering the workforce, McDonald’s decided to “support employees more directly” through one-on-one career coaching sessions with objective, third-party career advisers, Lauber says. According to the press release, the credentialed advisors will help restaurant employees “chart a path to achieve the future job or career they desire.”

Employees can also view education requirements and salaries for roles and industries that, based on conversations with employees, McDonald’s found to be of high interest, such as health care, technology and finance.

Measurement

McDonald’s will measure the app’s success in several ways, including monitoring downloads and tracking user engagement with career advisers on the platform. Of course, Lauber says, “Like any app, it’s only as good as its current version … we’ll be looking for ways to improve the app going forward with future releases.”

A Learning Experience

The Archways to Careers app expands the reach of McDonald’s career development opportunities. However, employees also gain numerous opportunities for personal and professional development on the job, whether it’s learning to communicate with co-workers of different backgrounds or using soft skills like empathy to understand customers’ points of view and provide stellar customer service. Lauber says, “The experiences people in our restaurants get, just from working there, set [them] up with excellent life skills.”

McDonald’s goal is to engrain professional development into the employee experience. As a result, even if employees don’t take advantage of the career development opportunities they’re offered, they still benefit from a “host of development opportunities while working in the restaurant,” Lauber says. They are constantly learning new skills, and refining old ones, on the job.

Although McDonald’s employees are each unique in their career aspirations, backgrounds and personal interests, they have one thing in common: an employee experience shaped by learning and development.

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