More than 55 percent of McDonald's spending on goods and services goes to businesses owned by minorities or women, including major partners like Lopez Foods, in Oklahoma City.
But just how did McDonald's beat out 59 other major companies — all dedicated diversity practitioners — to top this year's Diversity Elite? Dig a little deeper into the fabric of the fast food empire and the answers start to emerge.
Success has come by following the sorts of practices recommended by Jonamay Lambert, senior vice president, marketing, with The Kaleidoscope Group, a Chicago-based diversity management and consulting firm.
Ms. Lambert, a diversity and inclusion specialist for more than 20 years, says training, education and recruitment are key areas ... but also areas where companies need to do more. Doing more has become a mantra at McDonald's.
A Leadership Focus
Employee diversity and inclusion is supported through dozens of initiatives that emphasize leadership. Examples include Leadership at MacDonald's Program (LAMP), as well as Hispanic Career Development and education programs. All celebrate cultural differences, and, Ms. Harris says, "allow people to contribute their best."
Among McDonald's many successful role models who are achieving their full potential are leaders like Gloria Santona, executive vice president and chief legal counsel, and Jose Armario, group president for Canada and Latin America.
Ms. Lambert also says the traditional, one-time learning event is no longer enough. Instead, companies need to follow through with additional learning tools and opportunities such as Webinars and e-learning.
She says companies often do not put enough thought and planning into what they are doing. "They need to ask: 'Why are we doing this?' 'What do we want to get out of this?' They have to begin with an end in mind," she says.
That is exactly the process employed at McDonald's, which relies heavily on more than 120 employee networks supporting Hispanics, African Americans, women, Asian Americans, the disabled, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups and others.
Their efforts are enhanced through additional learning opportunities such as meetings to share best practices, conferences, and visits by outside speakers.
Cristina Alfaro, manager of McDonald's U. S. external communications, says Hispanic Business Vision, a franchise-driven initiative, aims to ensure McDonald's appeals to Hispanic customers in the right ways.
For example, committees have looked at how to make Hispanics more comfortable in restaurants: bilingual signage is posted in some 7,000 eateries. The success of these measures has seen them expand to other minorities, such as Asians.
Associations of franchisees — Hispanic, black, women and others — also carry the torch of diversity with the McDonald's Hispanic Owner-Operators Association funding scholarships to help more high school students go to college.
Ms. Alfaro says the franchisees' program, HACER, run in association with Ronald McDonald House Charities, has provided 14,000 scholarships, worth more than $20 million, since 1985.
She says McDonald's champions the educational goals of Hispanic students and encourages a "college-going mindset" to counter the present high drop-out rates. In addition, the company works to boost parental involvement in children's education, by partnering with the Arizona Department of Education's Even Start Family Literacy program, and through other programs.
Elsewhere in the community, the company also earns kudos for working with organizations like LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Council of La Raza, to build new relationships and strengthen existing networks.
McDonald's has embraced new media in its efforts to reach out to different segments of the community, especially tech-savvy young Hispanics.
Through Facebook and Twitter the company keeps in close touch with staff and customers while Ms. Alfaro says the Web site "me encanta" targets 18 to 49-year-olds "with a high emphasis towards young adults."
In addition, McFamilia, a quarterly newsletter distributed to all restaurants, owner/operators and company staff, celebrates the Hispanic contribution to McDonald's and talks about Hispanic community initiatives.
Even the recent recession and an ongoing soft retail market have failed to deflect McDonald's diversity efforts. On the contrary, Ms. Harris says throughout all the ups and downs over the past 34 years, the company has "never pulled back from our diversity activities and strategies."
That measure of dedication and ongoing focus is paying dividends at McDonald's in many ways, including its outstanding success at the head of this year's "Best Companies Diversity Elite."
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