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Nice is the New Cool – Especially If You’re Rockin’ a McJob

By April 13, 2011 No Comments

Every morning, I go through my local McDonald’s drive-through. I love their coffee. I’ll rock a Starbucks if I need a great wifi spot, but for a quick cup of delicious coffee, McDonald’s is my go-to place. I don’t care that the coffee is cheaper (which it is)… I just like it.

So, every morning, between 6:00 and 7:30am, I pull in the drive-through and order the same thing. “I’d like a small coffee with one Splenda please and that’ll be it.” I say that same thing every day. My husband says that their nickname for me is “Small Coffee, One Splenda.” And I’m certain if I’m a no-show, someone on the line goes, “I wonder where Small Coffee, One Splenda is today?”

And so I go back everyday. Everyday. Because beyond the good coffee, what I find amazing and refreshing is the happiness of the McDonald’s employees at this location. I know this happiness is not always universal in the McDonald’s galaxy, but at the Riverchase, Alabama location, happiness seems to be the universal component for the a.m. crew. Some may say the universal differentiator. They know me and are, frankly, nice. I was going to go through a long line of business pluses like they always say, “Come again!” but that crap doesn’t matter. They are just all really nice. And they get my order right.

I’ve wanted to write about this for sometime, but even more so now that the McDonald’s “McJob” campaign is getting some heavy press. McDonald’s, trying to compete with the Starbucks talent and recruitment image (candidate pool, benefits and recruitment branding all included), has launched an ad campaign leading to a one day hiring blitz on April 19th. McDonald’s, simply put, has two goals: to hire 50,000 workers and to be cool like Starbucks in the eyes of the minimum wage job seeker, shedding its “McJob” rap.

Certainly they will succeed in the mass hire. It’s McDonalds, and it is their summer hiring blitz.

On the other hand, I’m certain they will not succeed in gaining a cool factor or tapping into the same candidate market as Starbucks. Listen, I don’t discredit McDonalds for not liking the “McJob” moniker they have inherited. No one likes to be labeled, especially if it falls short of one’s own perceived vision. But McDonalds just isn’t cool (Ronald McDonald vs. cool Starbuck Mermaid lady?). But guess what… they don’t have to be.

McDonald’s doesn’t have to be cool to be successful. Just like Starbucks doesn’t have to be “fast” like McDonald’s to be successful.

To be successful, the workers simply need to be nice. And to remain nice on the job (which we all know work can suck the nice out of you really fast), they need to have engaged managers.

Pouring coffee, serving fries and pulling burgers off a shelf takes absolutely no skill. I’ve worked fast food, so I can say so from experience. Dealing with customers, handling complaints, and keeping rushed people happy does. It takes tremendous skill. And that skill is what keeps people coming back.

So, the McDonald’s and Starbucks applications should have just a few questions on it:

  • What is the last nice thing you did for someone? When did you do it?
  • If I asked 5 people to describe you, what one common personality trait would all five say about you?
  • What do you want out of a career at McDonald’s/ Starbucks?

And if you are a manager:

Career longevity is nice and if someone likes long-term career ops at McDonald’s, that is icing on the cake. But to keep your model rolling, which is more contingent than not… hire for nice; hire for engagement.

This post originally appeared on Fistful of Talent, a blog for recruiters, HR, consultants, and corporate types to talk recruiting and hiring.

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