Q&A with Jez Langhorn, Senior Vice President, Chief People Officer

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Jez Langhorn is responsible for Human Resources, Education, Training & Development and Customer Services in the UK.

In addition, Jez also plays a key role in aligning the People strategies of five other European markets – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Ireland – and led McDonald’s sponsorship of the volunteering programme for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Jez has held a number of roles in Operations, Franchising and Human Resources since joining McDonald’s in 1984 as a crew member while studying at college. Since 2006, Jez has been central to McDonald’s UK People Strategy which has played a significant part in the turnaround of the UK business and driven reappraisal of employment at McDonald’s.

Q Education and training play a vital role in the development of your people at McDonald’s. How are you bridging the gap between education and the workplace?

Education and training have always been a vital part of McDonald’s culture. In 1961 we were one of the first businesses in the world to create a Corporate University, and last year in the UK alone we invested £43 million in education and training programmes. This equates to approximately 7.2 million learning hours, an average of over 75 hours per employee per year.

As one of the largest employers of young people in the UK – we currently have over 70,000 young people working for us – we know that getting a first foot on the employment ladder has never been more important. What we also know is that many of the vital skills required to start climbing that ladder can only be acquired in the workplace. This is why far too many young people find themselves caught in a “Catch 22” situation of not being able to get work because they haven’t acquired the so called “soft skills” they need – and not being able to develop these skills because they can’t get work

To help address this problem we do two things. First, we hire our people primarily on their attitude – their commitment to deliver a great experience for our customers – rather than on their qualifications and previous experience. Second, we’ve created education and training programmes which ensure that they have the core functional skills (numeracy and literacy) and the vital workplace skills (timekeeping, teamwork, interpersonal communication, etc.) they’ll need to succeed.

QWith new technologies and an evolution in the way we learn, from social platforms, to MOOCS, gamification and more, how do you see the role of learning and development evolving in the near future and how are you already responding to the trends at McDonalds?

In September 2006 we launched our employee portal – ourlounge.co.uk – with the primary purpose of creating a channel through which we could deliver online learning and development programmes. Over the eight years since this launch we have learned an enormous amount about how to use digital learning as part of a wider, blended learning strategy.

In doing so, we have pioneered the use of high quality, high volume programmes which bear striking similarities to the Massive Open Online Courses which are now growing so rapidly in popularity. We were also early adopters of gamification techniques which we use to create enjoyable, interactive learning experiences for our people.

Over the past 2-3 years our website analytics have shown a massive rise in the use of mobile devices to access ourlounge, and our current focus is ensuring that in future our people will be able to enjoy a consistently high quality of user experience across a whole range of devices – from PCs and tablets to smart-phones and wearable devices.

QYour role involves aligning McDonald’s people strategies with six other European markets. How are you scaling innovative programmes between these markets?

The key fundamentals our customers expect from us have remained constant since we were founded in the 1950s: Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value. These four factors are etched into the DNA of our business. What’s changed, however, is how our customers are defining the restaurant experience – with their expectations in all four areas being ever higher year-on-year.

To respond to these changes we have identified five “Vital Ingredients” to a great McDonald’s customer experience, and are currently embedding these across all of our People Processes from Hiring and Orientation to Training and ongoing Performance Appraisal.
Sharing these “Vital Ingredients” across the six European markets I’m responsible for (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the UK) we have found that they resonate strongly with staff and customers alike, with cultural differences serving to nuance rather than significantly alter the way in which we are now embedding these in each market.

This reflects our experience in rolling out other major initiatives in the six markets (for example, all six markets now have an employee portal sitting on the ourlounge platform) where we’ve found that the fundamental similarities between markets are often greater than the social and cultural differences.

QThere is large emphasis and concern on the skills shortages we are facing on a global scale among our talent. Where do the skills gaps lie? How do you give your people the opportunity to fulfil their potential at McDonald’s and gain the valuable skills necessary to develop their future careers?

With the working age population in many European countries about to begin shrinking for the first time in many decades, the overall employment market is set to become tighter than ever before. However, there is also a growing polarisation in the workforce with growing shortages of mid to high-skilled talent on the one hand, and a surplus of so called low-skilled workers on the other.

I say “so called” low-skilled workers, as many of these individuals – particularly the younger people – have exactly the skills employers are seeking, it’s just that they lack the workplace experience highlighted above.

As I’ve experienced in my own career – I joined the business as a part-time Crew member when I was a student – the education and training programmes McDonald’s has in place create a seamless pathway to the highest levels in our organisation, enabling every employee to fulfil their true potential with us. I believe that this will be a significant competitive advantage for us as the labour market gets ever tighter.
Of course, very many of our people choose to “step away” from this pathway at some stage to take their particular “hard skills” in other directions with other employers. For example, we have very few opportunities for research scientists, musicians, archaeologists or doctors (none actually!), but it is a source of personal pride that our business is able to give talented people like this the core workplace skills and qualifications they need to take their professional ambitions to the next level.

You can hear about these topics and many more at our next HR Vision conference.

HR Vision is the elite, boutique style event, where HR leaders gather to discuss core business strategy.

Visit www.hrvisionevent.com to discover the next upcoming conference date and venue most suitable to you.


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