In December, McDonald's announced that it would invest $250 million over the next five years to increase the number of minority-owned franchises in the U.S. The program will help with funding requirements and financing to make it easier for people from underrepresented groups to become one of their operators.

While this investment in increasing representation seems like a good thing, but when you consider other details happening with the fast-food chain, its cause for raised eyebrows.

Over the past few years, nearly 80 Black franchise owners have sued McDonald's for racial discrimination. Dozens of these operators banded together for a class-action suit. And others have sued individually. The suits claim that practices within McDonald's have prevented Black operators from getting prime locations, to the point where the company has blocked deals that had already been agreed to. In addition, the franchisees claim that the company's discriminatory practices have resulted in Black operators having lower sales numbers than their non-Black counterparts.

McDonald's denies any form of discrimination. They have settled some of the lawsuits. 

Building a diverse team is about more than just getting diverse talent in the door. You also have to keep them there. With multiple lawsuits citing similar concerns, here's what McDonald's should do right now instead of trying to attract more diverse talent. This lesson is applicable for any brand that wants to build a more representative team.

Get their house in order

Any time we invite people over to our home, my husband and I spend a good amount of time cleaning before hand. It's not that our home is a disaster (although, sometimes that is the case), it's just that we want to make sure it is an extra good condition when we welcome others in, so they feel cared for and like they belong.

You have to do the same with your culture. Before welcoming new talent in, especially those who are different from you, make sure your house is in order. Give everything a thorough clean, not just the areas you think the talent will touch.

Evaluate your employer value proposition, reputation, recruitment, and onboarding practices. Take the time to capture insights on why certain talent stays, and why others leave. Do a deep dive to understand if there are areas in your existing culture that cause harm, particularly to certain groups, and what areas could be improved.

Unless you are intentional about creating an environment where everyone on the team can thrive, you may not find out until after significant harm has been done that certain systems and practices push others away, rather than making them feel like they belong.

When I worked my corporate job, every other year we took a big survey, to evaluate how well the company and our individual departments were faring with living into the companies values. The questions were extensive, and each team was required to review responses in detail, and create and implement action plans to address areas of concern. If management needed clarification on some of the results, then they welcomed team members providing additional feedback directly.

You could take a more formal approach such as this through surveying and focus groups. You could also take a more informal approach by inviting team members for coffee, and creating a safe space for them to share candidly about their specific experiences and observations with the culture. 

If you happen to receive feedback you don't like or agree with, don't dismiss it. Don't discount how your team feels, or what their lived experiences are, especially when they are different from your own or others on the team.

Take the time to get to the root of what's causing them to feel that way, even if it requires having tough conversations or facing difficult realities. Besides, getting feedback and doing nothing with it signals to your team that there is no benefit in sharing if there's no action or improvement. 

Don't limit your focus on nurturing an inclusive environment to just one time. Company cultures need to be nurtured constantly, like gardens. You can't just pull weeds once and be done with it. You have to maintain it on an ongoing basis so your garden can thrive. Your culture needs to be nurtured and cared for on an ongoing basis as well.

No matter your history or what your culture looks like now, with intentional focus and effort, you can build an environment that is ripe for everyone on your team to both feel like they belong and thrive.