Special Report: Premiums and Incentives: McDonald’s motivates from the front lines on up

Motivating staff at every level of the organization is one of the main ingredients in the incentive and recognition strategy at McDonald's Restaurants of Canada.Because the McDonald's product is not a big ticket item, the front line crew, or restaurant staff,...

Motivating staff at every level of the organization is one of the main ingredients in the incentive and recognition strategy at McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada.

Because the McDonald’s product is not a big ticket item, the front line crew, or restaurant staff, is considered an important component of the salesforce.

The company pays close attention to motivating crew people to provide the best possible customer service.

‘Point-of-sale is where things happen,’ says Mike Balaka, human resources consultant at McDonald’s.

‘The key people in our organization are selling food and interacting with the customer,’ Balaka says. ‘Head office is here to support the restaurants.’

The burger behemoth runs an employee incentive program at least every two months and about half of these programs are designed to tie in with themed marketing promotions.

When McDonald’s sponsored the Winter Olympics, for example, employees were rewarded for outstanding service with Olympic logo items.

Another incentive program was linked to the Flintstones movie promotion, during which employees had the chance to win movie merchandise such as Flintstones T-shirts, sweatshirts and movie gift certificates.

According to Balaka, while all employee incentives are designed to encourage 100% customer satisfaction, the criteria for receiving awards are specific to the requirements of each restaurant.

Awards go to those who exemplify productivity, customer service, attendance, friendliness or other attributes.

Since the average restaurant employs roughly 82 staff members, the company tries to foster a team atmosphere with its incentive programs.

‘It’s important that the whole team support a promotion,’ Balaka says.

‘We try to run programs that reward a whole team or make it possible that everyone is recognized in some way,’ he says.

Toward this end, McDonald’s also runs Instant Recognition Programs whereby any staff member spotted by a customer or manager performing some aspect of their job well is given a reward on the spot.

Cited employees can pick at random from a prize board a gift which could range from a gift certificate to a stereo to McDonald’s-branded merchandise.

Balaka asserts that such ‘McDonaldized’ items as hats and jackets emblazoned with the company logo are special, collectible mementos for the staff.

The key to these programs and others is fun and flexibility.

McDonald’s, unlike many companies, must accommodate employees spanning a wide range of ages.

The company frequently holds focus groups and management communications sessions to find out what incentive and recognition programs crew staff would like to see in place.

The concept of flexibility in incentive and recognition programs is applied not only at the crew level, but at management and head office levels as well.

McDonald’s has a financial incentive program for office staff that distributes bonuses based on company performance, and individual and team results, but staff are also rewarded throughout the year with gifts tailored to the individual.

‘Year-end trips and structured awards are not right for everyone,’ Balaka says.

‘We recognize performance with what is suitable for the individual,’ he says.

In a personal example of this policy, Balaka recounts an instance when he was singled out for outstanding performance.

‘They knew I was moving, and I needed it, so they gave me a 26-inch Sony television,’ he says.

‘I still have that television in my living room, and I can point to it with pride. In some ways, it means more than money would have.’

Company loyalty is also encouraged with the Service Award Program, which recognizes length of time with the organization.

Awards are given from one year to 25 years of service, and employees at every level, including part-time staff, qualify.

Recognizing the importance of motivated people, McDonald’s uses programs such as these to provide a family atmosphere, a fun work environment and a place where the needs of the individual are taken into account.

There is perhaps no better testament to the success of these policies than Mike Balaka.

Working at McDonald’s through high school and university, he has racked up 15 years’ worth of Service Awards.