What do you think of when you think of McDonald's?

Ray Kroc, the chain's controversial founder, once reportedly said he hoped the McDonald's Golden Arches would become as much of an icon in America as a flag or a cross.

According to some sources, he succeeded. But along with its status as the world's second-largest restaurant chain and one of the most powerful brands in U.S. history, comes some great responsibility.

All of which makes it striking that McDonald's USA and 2,000 of its franchisees just announced a sweeping training program that they plan to roll out across the United States next month, designed to make McDonald's a safer place to work.

In short, they're be teaching employees how to deal differently with each other -- and with the millions of customers who frequent McDonald's every day. 

About 18 percent of McDonald's restaurants are owned by the company itself, while the remainder are owned by franchisees. McDonald's says it all adds up to 850,000 workers who will be affected by the training.

Among the areas of focus:

Mitigating Workplace Violence

Talk about a sign of the times. But given the sheer number of headline-grabbing violence and threats -- not just at McDonald's frankly, but in all kind of public places -- this certainly makes sense.

The focus here will be on training employees to "recognize" when "difficult situations .. arise with customers, employees, and others," and help them to "diffuse" them.

Safe and Respectful Workplace Training

McDonald's says it hopes to teach: "harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention, how to report a complaint and, importantly, how to appropriately engage as a bystander."

This comes after 23 McDonald's employees filed harassment complaints against the company earlier this year, and after some McDonald's employees walked off the job last year in a protest over what they said was "a corporate culture where sexual harassment is routinely tolerated."

Unconscious Bias Training

It's probably McDonald's competitor Starbucks that has had the more visible response to bias incidents, including closing down its entire chain for a day to train employees about unconscious bias.

But McDonald's says it wants to "build understanding for supervisors and crew on how unconscious bias can negatively impact relationships." The chain began requiring bias training for its recruiters and some agencies earlier this year.

Anti-Bullying and Bystander Training

McDonald's says this training will "support identification and prevention of bullying behavior of all kinds both in and outside of the workplace," and separately, "review different bystander scenarios, power dynamics, and mitigation tactics."

The training builds on an initiative McDonald's says it launched last year.

Most of us have probably worked in organizations that offered training as a way to address what were perceived to be systemic problems. Sometimes, employees take it seriously; other times less so.

But if this works -- and if we can spend more time talking about say, McDonald's plan to launch a chicken sandwich instead of harassment complaints or some of the crazier things that have happened at McDonald's -- it will be good for employees and customers alike.

Published on: Sep 2, 2019
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