Those golden arches are recognised the world over. With more than 38,000 locations globally (1,400 in the UK and Ireland), fast food chain McDonald’s is uniquely placed to give something back to the many communities it serves. Through its global independent non-profit Ronald McDonald House Charities, it supports families with sick and injured children, helping them stay together near hospitals and healthcare facilities. Its franchise model is a real strength when it comes to connecting with the community, says James Thorne, Senior Director, People Lead, Europe. ‘If you go all the way back, the reason for franchising our business is so that you can back local businesspeople in the communities they live and work in. We want our franchisees to be entrepreneurs within their local communities and to focus on what matters to their communities.’

Organisation: McDonald’s UK & Ireland

Sector: Hospitality

Size: 130,000 people

Connecting with community

McDonald’s UK & Ireland’s sustainability plan, Plan for Change, contains community and people-related commitments under four key pillars: Planet Positive, Great Food, Great Restaurants and People Positive. One commitment states: ‘We will help our communities gain new skills and open doors through training, work experience and equal employment opportunities.’ This means having a youth worker in every restaurant by 2024, supporting 3,000 apprentices by 2025, and helping 1 million people gain new skills and access jobs by 2030. ‘It’s about leveraging our strengths, and one has always been around giving people opportunities,’ says Thorne.

To help deliver its goal of a youth worker in every restaurant by 2024, McDonald’s has partnered with Children in Need. ‘The aspiration is to leverage our system to help communities,’ says Thorne, adding that the youth workers and other partners will work with franchisees on the issues that are most important to the community.

While Plan for Change is full of ambitious goals, Thorne emphasises the importance of not forgetting the other things that customers care about – for example, litter. ‘People care about seeing a McDonald’s fries wrapper on their local high street,’ he says. ‘That is the foundation of genuinely supporting the community: taking care of local environments. We’ve always done litter picks.’

Role of the people profession

‘We used a lot of our talent and future talent to develop Plan for Change,’ says Thorne, adding that the strong connection with purpose displayed by the younger generation meant the plan was more ambitious than it might have otherwise been. ‘That purpose – why people show up to work – is about feeding and fostering communities. We need to make sure that link and synergy is well understood across the business.’

The people profession has to be able to articulate that purpose across the business and the wider ecosystem, such as through the supply chain and franchise network. While there is flexibility around how franchisees operate, they are held to the same standards as the corporate business, and the people team works with suppliers on issues like diversity. The people team has a presence across all cross-functional business activity. ‘Without activating our people, we are not going to be able to achieve anything,’ says Thorne.

The aspiration is to leverage our strength and our system to help communities.

James Thorne, McDonald's UK and Ireland

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