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Tue, May 18, 2010

Talent Strategies

McDonald’s: Turning Diversity into Dollars

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There’s an old saying that great minds think a like. Here’s another one: One of those minds is redundant. Do we really need two people who think the same way looking at the same problem?

In an earlier post, I talked about diversity being a secret business driver of competitive advantage. A diverse talent base is an excellent source of strength that can help shape strategy, attract new customers and increase revenue.

McDonald’s is one of those companies creating positive business results through the principles of diversity and inclusion. In 2003, the company implemented a “Plan to Win” business recovery plan that included a well-defined focus on diversity and innovation. Since then, McDonald’s net income has increased 168%, from $1.6 billion to $4.3 billion in 2008. (They’re on track for an equal, if not better, 2009.)

One of McDonald’s most successful product launches in recent years is the breakfast burrito developed by a Houston franchise owner Nelly Quijano. For Nelly, the burrito was a new product idea that became a popular choice for her local customer base. For McDonald’s – which enjoys the advantage of an owner/operator business model – the sandwich was a solution to address lackluster breakfast sales across the country. The company was able to capitalize on the entrepreneurial vision of Nelly’s franchise to create something all franchisees could benefit from.

3 strategies McDonald’s leverages for turning diversity into dollars:

1. Involve your top executives: McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner makes sure diversity is part of any discussion about talent management and is committed to creating an environment that makes it safe for employees, franchisees and suppliers to express their point of view.

2. Nurture diversity of thought: McDonald’s has always prided itself on developing a diverse network of franchisees and suppliers. In 2003, senior leadership put a process in place that made it easier for owner-operators, employees and customers to provide input on everything from product ideas to restaurant design. Tapping into the diverse ideas and perspectives of your talent base (internal and external) is a great way to fuel innovation.

3. Have a clear and explicit link between diversity, business strategy and business performance: Diversity is not simply about tapping into a specific cultural group in order to launch cultural products and services for that same cultural group. Instead, McDonald’s strategy is to consistently produce menu items that appeal to the broadest possible market. The company also enjoys the advantage of an owner-operator community network that provides a filter for ideas evaluated by its entrepreneurial community, who must put up their own money to launch new products. This is a powerful way to prioritize all the products, systems and services in the pipeline.

We’re in the midst of a long-term demographic shift in the U.S., where the workforce is becoming increasingly more diverse. For companies to successfully compete for the best talent, they need to communicate in a way that will resonate with the workforce they are trying to attract. But there’s another upside: Having “diversity of thought” baked into the DNA of an organization can also have a dramatic impact on a company’s bottom line.

This case study represents a powerful story of how businesses can transform diversity from buzzword to bottom line. While your company’s workforce, mission and reach are likely quite different from McDonald’s, aligning formal diversity programs with business objectives represents a basic, yet powerful, tool in helping drive innovation, and ultimately, revenue.

McDonald’s has a “Plan to Win.” Does your business?

To learn more about how your business can leverage diversity as a competitive hiring advantage, check out Monster’s Diversity and Inclusion site for articles, insights and best practices.

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