The restaurant industry’s labor crisis doesn’t appear to be waning. 

Food and drink places added 253,200 jobs in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that still leaves roughly 1 million jobs unaccounted for compared to February 2020. There isn’t much guarantee the industry will recoup all those positions either. A recent survey released by job search platform Joblist revealed 38 percent of former hospitality workers have no interest in returning to work at a bar or restaurant. 

The survey found that workplace benefits were one of the main hangups, and concepts across both quick-service and full-service have done their best to remedy the issue. That includes McDonald’s, which announced in May it would raise hourly wages by roughly 10 percent to an average of $13 per hour. The pay will bump to an average of $15 per hour by 2024. Entry-level workers now earn a minimum of $11–$17 per hour and shift managers make a minimum of $15–$20. The move only applies to the burger giant’s 660 company-run restaurants, but franchisees have reportedly implemented similar wage lifts, as well as childcare and educational benefits. 

READ MORE: Attracting and Retaining Restaurant Employees in a Labor Shortage

While competitive pay and benefits are key, McDonald’s is also a believer in a company’s ability to coach critical soft skills. To gain a better understanding of this positive impact, it conducted a “Workforce Survey” with the American Association of Community Colleges to ask individuals what’s most important in a first job and how their careers evolved. 

The survey polled nearly 2,000 workers across multiple industries, and 77 percent said they were satisfied with their first job. The three most important soft skills to learn at a first stop were responsibility, teamwork, and responsiveness. Respondents who learned at least one skill per category are 19 percent more likely to have a full-time job currently, 24 percent more likely to have health insurance, and 50 percent more likely to report job satisfaction. 

The results also proved how much of a role McDonald’s could play as a first-time job in people’s lives. Of those who started their careers at the brand, 88 percent learned how to work as a team, compared to 74 percent overall. Fifty-seven percent said they were taught customer service, versus less than half of respondents overall. Additionally, the survey found that more than 40 percent are more likely to have financial security, 50 percent are more likely to have a job with benefits, and more than 70 percent are more likely to feel job satisfaction. 

QSR sat down with Tiffanie Boyd, senior vice president and chief people officer of McDonald’s USA, to elaborate further on the results, the importance of soft skills in today’s market, and how the labor crisis will unfold. 

The top three soft skill categories from the survey were responsibility, teamwork, and responsiveness. Could you elaborate on how McDonald’s incorporates each of those skill sets into the daily routine of its workers?

McDonald’s and our franchisees are teaching and training employees from the moment they walk through our restaurant doors—from our initial onboarding programs, to the coaching they get working with teammates, and live feedback from managers during their shifts. We’re focused on skills that will help people succeed in their jobs at McDonald’s, but also set them up for success later in their career and in life: skills like showing up on time, working collaboratively as a team, communicating effectively, and being accountable for results.

How strong is the supply of soft skills in the workforce today, especially among the younger generation who may look to McDonald’s as their first job? Is there any noticeable gap in soft skills?

Even as the job market evolves, these soft skills will always be important for people to learn early in their careers. And the Workforce Survey showed us that many Americans—from all walks of life—recognize the value of these skills and how they can lead to better outcomes down the road.

The way in which McDonald’s teaches these soft skills to first timer, has it changed at all from how it was done five, 10, 15 years ago? What methods have stayed the same, and what’s different?

We’re always evaluating and updating our training programs in-restaurant. That’s exactly why we conducted the Workforce Survey, and we’ll use these insights and feedback from crew members to improve for the future.

One of the notable ways our training has evolved over the years is the technology we use. For example, we now use interactive training modules to support learning, rather than relying on binders of guidelines and instructions.

We also help employees learn soft skills through education outside the restaurant. Many of our core programs have stood the test of time, like Hamburger University, which was founded in 1961 to train future leaders. And we’ve continued to introduce new offerings. A great example is Archways to Opportunity, which we launched in 2015 to help employees pursue a college degree, earn a high school diploma, learn English as a second language, and gain access to free academic and career advising services. We’re proud that more than 65,000 restaurant employees have taken advantage of this program to date.

The survey found that McDonald’s has been successful in giving employees the opportunity to learn soft skills. What separates McDonald’s training methods from other brands in the quick-service segment?

I was encouraged by the survey data, which showed our efforts to teach employees these critical soft skills are paying off. I think it all boils down to the culture we’re building at our restaurants, with a focus on continuous learning and improvement.

As one of the largest employers in the U.S., we have such a unique opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives. I take that responsibility seriously, and I can tell you we’ll never stop pushing ourselves to go further and do more.  

What are the biggest lessons McDonald’s has learned from the labor shortage, and how is the company faring? Has there been any big shift in how you approach hiring? What benefits are you offering in the near-term to attract, retain, and support employees?

It’s a competitive market right now, and we’re working closely with franchisees across the country to share strategies and best practices for hiring and retention. We know pay and benefits are important, which is why we are raising hourly wages for employees at McDonald’s-owned restaurants by an average of 10 percent, and many franchisees are doing the same, in addition to exploring expanded benefits like paid time off and backup child and elderly care.

What was so interesting about the Workforce Survey is that it allowed us to better understand what’s most valuable to our employees in the long run, too. And we believe our skills building, training and education programs are keeping our crew members and managers engaged and encouraging them to stay with us for a longer period of time.   

Following the announcement of pay raises at corporately owned stores, did McDonald’s notice any significant increase in applications or potential job candidates? How impactful has that wage increase been thus far?

Yes, we’re seeing a lift in applications and hiring, and I’m sure recent wage increases were a contributing factor.

Employee Management, Fast Food, Story, McDonald's