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Communication – we’re loving it !


A dedicated, engaged workforce makes for a thriving business, but what role can internal communication play in motivating your people?  One organisation that recognises the need for effective internal communication is McDonald’s. The company has built an internal communication culture that nurtures, develops and ultimately places trust in its 67,000 UK employees to create strong growth. This is demonstrated by the fact that around 80% of its restaurant management started their careers on the restaurant floor as crew members, as did one in five McDonald’s franchisees and half of the company’s executive team. 

Choosing which internal communications methods are right to deliver key messages for diverse audiences is essential to the success of any business. So how has McDonald’s ensured that its internal communication is reaching the right people with the right messages? McDonald’s adopts multi-channel communication methods to ensure that all its messages are delivered to staff.  These include the use of print, online and other forms of technology such as video conferencing. 

Working in partnership with its communication agency, Summersault, McDonald’s produces two employee magazines. For McDonald’s UK 66,000 company hourly paid staff there is MDUK, a bi-monthly magazine that is designed to excite, inform and inspire staff about the company. Aimed mostly at 16-24 year old customer facing staff, MDUK is a pivotal communications tool for the company and is seen as a quick, enjoyable read that communicates key messages in a fun, young and contemporary style.

Based on reader research that showed the target audience are mostly readers of magazines such as Heat, Now and FHM, MDUK emulates the style and tone of those publications to entice its readers, making them feel at ease with the magazine and helping them to understand the brand messages it conveys. Judges’ comments from the Central CiB Awards 2007, where MDUK won Best News magazine, included: “This is not a magazine that is sold on news stands but at first glance it could be mistaken for one, and this means crew are bound to give it some time.”

Alison Batley, publications manager, McDonald’s, explains: “MDUK has proved to be a really effective staff magazine.  Introducing the same standards of production, style and readability as the off-the-shelf magazines that our staff choose to read has brought them a magazine they enjoy and want to read, effortlessly communicating key company information and embodying one of our key brand values – fun.”  

Each issue of MDUK works to involve crew members in the brand, not just to toe the corporate line and respond to customers in a parrot fashion, but to feel part of the bigger picture. Research shows they trust the magazine, feel a sense of ownership and, therefore, understand that they are vital to the brand. Its success can be measured partly by the sheer amount of stories that crew members submit through a range of channels including the MDUK telephone hotline, email, fax, post and text.

McDonald’s other key publication is inFocus, which is targeted at business managers, office staff and franchisees. The magazine aims to reflect the company’s transparency and offer an insight into strategic direction. Through a series of profiles and in-depth articles it shares best practice and seeks to gain audience buy-in to the decision-making process, so readers feel fully informed about the company’s direction.  

Through its HR team, McDonald’s UK is also increasingly using online communication methods to engage and develop employees. Through the company provides an innovative lifestyle hub for staff providing a two-way communication channel for staff to voice their opinions openly and freely. The website, as well as providing general orientation background for new starters, provides details on current staff rosters and flexible e-learning opportunities, helping staff to develop their skill set by gaining nationally recognisable qualifications. ‘Our lounge’ also hosts an array of features providing everyday information on music, fashion, film, travel, community and chat, plus all-round support from external experts, from tips on improving communication skills to buying a house for the first time.  

As part of McDonald’s wider strategic communications picture, all its communication tools are designed specifically to encourage readers to become brand ambassadors, telling their stories on a local level and creating a human face for the company’s national messages. McDonald’s communication channels are testament to the theory that the strongest communications are always two-way and always maximise the chances for employees to respond. Employees need to feel involved in the business and that their opinions on how the company operates count. This ensures they stay engaged and want the organisation to succeed. Two-way communication can be achieved in a number of ways, from including as many employee views as possible in the communication mix, to votes on topical issues and regular employee surveys resulting in clear lines of action.  

It’s important to realise, however, that internal communications don’t work in splendid isolation. The function may sit within HR, or have a dedicated communications team, but its role is always to guide, engage and facilitate. Internal communication is on-going and constantly evolving – it needs constant attention and adjustment  – but the benefits and ‘wow’ factor it can bring to any organisation cannot be underestimated. But while it may not be underestimated, choosing and implementing the wrong communication channels can be a costly and potentially damaging exercise. This is why Summersault would always recommend quantitative and qualitative research to give a clear gauge of what channels would generate best employee response. 

“We cannot assume we know what our audiences want, therefore it is vital that we immerse ourselves in our clients’ businesses to get it right. Understanding McDonald’s doesn’t just mean eating the odd Big Mac. We spend time working behind the counter in restaurants to appreciate exactly what life is like for our audiences,” says Summersault managing editor Samantha Tame. “A combination of research: focus groups, reader surveys, telephone interviews and visits to restaurants, help us to ensure that our communication make the right impact. It’s vital that they do.”       




Samantha Tame, editorial director, Summersault Communications

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