Super-sized skills make McDonald's
While McDonald's has not always enjoyed the best of press, it is hard to knock the company's commitment to staff training. For a start, it is an awarding body in its own right, and second, it trains on a super-size scale.
It has seen 1,200 shift managers qualify with a level 3 management programme, just fewer than 6,000 people have signed up for its level 2 apprenticeship in hospitality since it was launched in January last year and more than 550 people jave applied for its BTEC certificate in work skills since its launch in March this year. It says it has enabled more than 8,100 people to study for apprenticeships last year - a tenth of its UK workforce.
Its concept of a "learning ladder" provides an individual educational plan for each member of staff, which includes everything from basic skills up to managerial qualifications. Employees' learning plans are recorded on the company's My Learning site, which allows them to check their progress and offers support in the shape of e-tutors.
But why does a high-street food retailer bother with all this training? How hard, after all, can serving burger and chips be?
David Fairhurst, senior vice-president and chief people officer for McDonald's UK amp; Northern Europe, believes that the company's commitment to training brings benefits beyond just teaching someone how to do a particular job.
"In a customer-led business, we need our people to deliver consistent, high-quality customer service in our restaurants," he says. "They'll deliver this if they are engaged and get something out of coming to work every day. That's why, as well as training our people on the smooth running of our restaurants, we give them a much wider training and development offer.
"Employees gain valuable and transferable skills and qualifications through our broad training approach, and many show a tremendous confidence boost that has a significant impact at work and beyond."
It seems to be working for the company. Trading figures show McDonald's recorded an additional 130 million customer visits in 200809 - the equivalent of, it says, an extra 1,000 customers per week in every one of its 1,200 UK restaurants.
"I'm convinced our investment in skills and training has played a key part in these achievements," Mr Fairhurst says. "Since we started our Skills for Life programme in 2006, crew tenure has increased from 18 months to two-and-a-half years, staff turnover has dropped to an all-time low, and the number of employees who feel proud to work at McDonald's has risen to a record high."
The other curious thing is why, with myriad catering and hospitality courses already on offer across further education, the company goes to the trouble of providing training in-house with all the money - it spends 30 million a year on training - and infrastructure this entails.
For Mr Fairhurst the answer is simple: "We deliver our training in-house because it allows us to control both the quality and relevance and it's less disruptive. It means avoiding the risk that the quality of training our people have come to expect is not matched by external providers."
The bigger picture for Mr Fairhurst is one where the demarcations between employment, education and training break down.
"Employers have a role to play in a world where traditional lines between education and employment have become blurred," he explains.
"I've said before that I'd like to see much more of a revolving door for people between education and employment, where people can be more involved and swap seamlessly between the two.
"At McDonald's, we don't believe that people leave the world of education behind them when they enter the world of work."