McDonald's Surprisingly Simple Secret To Training Managers

If you never have enough time to thoroughly train new employees, take a tip from McDonald's and get them up to speed fast by throwing them into a supervised version of your busiest day.
December 05, 2013

One of the biggest challenges small-business owners face when bringing on a new manager or giving a current employee more responsibility is making sure he or she has the right training to succeed. But do you devote enough time and effort to the training process?

During the holiday season, it's especially hard to find time to train new or newly promoted employees who'll be helping you handle the increased customer load this time of year. Depending on how complex your business is, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the things the new employees need to learn.

McDonald's faces this challenge with almost every new store owner and manager who will be responsible for opening and running a new location. How does it solve that problem?

While its well-known "Hamburger University" offers an entire curriculum that helps train new managers and store owners, outside of this major investment, McDonald's has found an astonishingly simple way of training that's much easier to implement and really helps prepare new managers for success.

In The Trenches

When conducting in-person training, McDonald's often has new or potential managers work at a McDonald's location inside of a department store, rest stop or other partnering business. These locations often tend to have fewer moving parts than stand-alone restaurants. For instance, there's no drive thru or separate parking lots. Sometimes the complex promotions that "regular" McDonald's have aren't available at these special locations.

Although the new employees still have teams to manage and processes to maintain, these more streamlined environments offer a simpler introduction to what it takes to manage a McDonald's franchise, making it much easier to learn the basics of management.

How can you use this simplified approach to help better train your employees and benefit your small business? Here's an example from my own experience:

Lesson Learned

After college, to earn money to move to Australia, I took a job waiting tables. The restaurant I was working at had a green screen terminal we all used to order food for our assigned tables. Every menu item had a four-digit code, and much like a grocery checkout clerk, your ability to enter orders quickly depended on your ability to memorize these codes. To help waiters learn as quickly as possible, one Friday each month during the busiest dinner rush, the restaurant manager would put a new, inexperienced waiter in front of an ordering screen and have all the other waiters place their orders through this "middleman."

The result was that these new employees had experienced, busy (and often frustrated) peers standing over them waiting for them to place their orders quickly and correctly. The pressure of the situation was a great precurser to having your own tables during the Friday rush, but simplifying the task of learning the computer system to this one day and with this one method really helped new waiters memorize almost every food code immediately.

After that night, you were fully trained—or you ended up leaving the job because the pressure was too much. In the restaurant industry, that's what you might consider a win-win.

Ultimately, creating simpler ways to introduce new team members to critical job tasks is what McDonald's does with its manager training program ... and what the restaurant I worked at did to train its waiters on a new system as quickly as possible.

Whether you have plans to hire more people for a holiday rush or want to incorporate these techniques for ongoing training any time of the year, using simplified training can help you ease new people into the intricacies of your business and be assured they're prepared to handle the responsibility.

Rohit Bhargava is a four-time bestselling author and founder of the Influential Marketing Group. He advises companies on simplifying their messages and creating more human connections with their customers through marketing. Despite having worked with some of the largest brands in the world, waiting tables remains one of his most educational job experiences.

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