How McDonald’s Built Their Educational Benefits Platform
The restaurant industry’s ongoing labor issues have proven that employees simply aren’t looking for better wages.
Average hourly earnings for recreation and hospitality workers increased by about 12% in December 2021 year-over-year. However, in February, 863,000 people left their jobs, representing about 21% of the private sector. It was the most since November, when 881,000 people left their jobs.
Restaurants are now tasked with going beyond dollars and providing employee benefits that persuade them to stay, develop and potentially grow within the company.
McDonald’s in particular has done this through Archways to Opportunity, a program to help workers further their education.
RSQ sitting with Lisa Schumacher, dDirector of Education Strategies, to learn more about the program and how it differentiates the burger giant from the field.
Could you explain the background to the creation of McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity in 2015?
Archways was created with the understanding that there is both an education deficit and a skills deficit in this country, and the belief that we could be part of the solution to this problem. Think-tank partners such as the American Association of Community Colleges and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning helped us create the program.
As one of the largest employers in the United States, we have the ability to reach millions of frontline workers and provide them with access to job training and education. We know that our restaurants are the first job for many of our employees, so we train them in basic job readiness skills like responsibility, teamwork and effective communication. and clear. Individuals learn a lot in their first job. And these skills are essential in any job and any career path. We also know that when employers go beyond this and also invest in additional job training and formal education, there is a benefit for the individual, the employer and the community. For us, investing in workforce education is the shared value proposition that advances both McDonald’s business and the economic and social conditions of the communities in which we operate.
Archways to Opportunity helps our restaurant workers where they need it, whether it’s learning English skills, through our English Under the Arches program, earning a high school diploma, through our partner Career Online High School, which is an accredited online high school. district designed specifically for working-age adults – or earning a college degree with the financial support of tuition assistance and access to academic and career counseling services. We’ve also created a career navigation app that allows restaurant employees to see how the skills they learn at McDonald’s translate to career paths within our system, but also in other industries like healthcare, IT and finance.
What do you think are the main reasons for its success?
We can change so many lives with this program. The Archways program touches every life cycle of our employees, from high school students’ first jobs to grandmothers who want to stay busy. The program is a win-win for employees and employers; employees have access to free or low-cost training programs to support long-term career success while developing the skills they need to succeed on the job and acting as an effective hiring and retention tool for the company and our franchisees. In addition, each of the participants pursuing their degree is assigned a success coach, who has been integral to their success.
What makes McDonald’s educational offerings different from other top restaurants in the country?
Our biggest differentiator is the power of choice we give employees. While we have specific no-cost or low-cost partners, such as Colorado Technical University and Western Governors University, as well as an online partner that employees can leverage to earn their high school diploma, we recognize that many employees want to pursue their education the most when it’s in their backyard — and often it’s at their local community college. And we provide flexible tuition assistance so they can do that.
When it comes to the top perks employees seek when looking for a job, where does education fit in? How much has this increased in recent years?
Overall, employees expect more from employers. Recently, McDonald’s surveyed 5,000 restaurant crew members and managers to ask what matters most to them and we found that in addition to compensation and benefits, training and growth opportunities are things that our employees and those of our franchisees focus on. Given the success of our program and the noticeable impact we’ve seen on restaurant employees, it’s clear that educational benefits are a high priority when looking for a job.
Additional research by our provider, Bright Horizons’ EdAssist, recently found that 87% of workers say learning new skills will be important down the line and nearly two-thirds (60%) of workers don’t just want , but expect educational benefits. . EdAssist also found that 94% would stay with a company longer if it offered some sort of educational benefits program. Since launching the Archways in 2015, McDonald’s has awarded $165 million in tuition and college aid to more than 75,000 restaurant workers. In 2020, our McDonald’s team conducted a study that found Archways program participants are 2.5 times more likely to be promoted and have twice the retention rates.
Which Archways to Opportunity resource do employees benefit from the most?
Our two largest programs are high school diploma programs and college programs. Archways High School Graduation Program offers employees who may have experienced academic trauma, whether it be moving, pregnancy, work priorities, finances, etc., a new opportunity to graduate from high school. This program is self-paced with no grades and offers 10 career tracks for participants to choose from and work on. To date, we have had over 1,500 graduates of the high school graduation program.
Archways Colleges Tuition Assistance Program breaks down barriers to affordability and accessibility. Now more than ever, people are being educated in all different phases of life, including as adults or parents. We have seen that what was once the non-traditional student is now the new traditional student, and we want to make it as transparent as possible for all students and remove barriers to education. Crew working just 90 days and 15 hours a week have access to $2,500 a year at any accredited institution, including four-year, two-year and trade schools.
What is the typical age range or demographic of employees who use Archways to Opportunity?
The Archways to Opportunity program is open to all restaurant employees working at least 90 days and working an average of 15 hours per week or more. We see crews and managers of all ages using the benefits of Archways.
Could you explain the creation of the Archways to Opportunity mobile app and how it made it easier for employees to connect to resources?
In 2020, McDonald’s launched Archways to Careers, a mobile app designed to help employees understand the valuable and transferable skills they develop during their time working at a McDonald’s restaurant. The app enables users to leverage these skills in a future career by finding opportunities for education and growth within McDonald’s and other sectors such as healthcare, IT and trades. Users can perform an interest assessment to identify suitable career paths and work with a career counselor, in real time, to chart a personalized educational path.
Have there been any notable additions to the Archways to Opportunity program during the pandemic?
Most of the programs we offer were already 100% online, such as the Career Online High School program and all degree programs offered by our university partner, Colorado Tech University. However, at the onset of the pandemic, we quickly transitioned our ESL program, English Under the Arches, from a face-to-face model to a virtual one. I am happy to say that we have had great success with this model and will continue to offer it.
In terms of program evaluation, since partnering with EdAssist, we have been able to introduce new reporting tools, allowing us to determine what is working well and what is not. Our franchisees now have access to more detailed information on how benefits are used by their employees, providing a greater sense of ownership for our franchisees. Our move to a “direct billing” capability with EdAssist will also make a significant difference for participating employees. Rather than worrying about uploading detailed receipts or lists, we are able to directly process these payments in real time, removing barriers for those who cannot afford upfront payments.