Companies are fighting hard to attract the best people from a tight talent pool and are now investing substantial time, money and effort on employees to keep them motivated and loyal.

Many companies are already offering training but not all of them make full use of their training programmes to engage employees and ensure a ready pool of talent.

Integrating a comprehensive training programme with opportunities for growth and advancement can foster a greater sense of belonging and promote an inspired workforce. At McDonald’s, winner of the inaugural Aon Hewitt Outstanding Best Employers in Singapore Award 2011, up to $2 million is invested annually in training employees.

The company believes that every employee who walks through its doors can be a manager and, ultimately, a future leader. Here is how McDonald’s has geared its training to help employees at all levels reach their goals.

Training for career growth

All 8,000 restaurant employees in Singapore undergo structured and continuous training and development at different stages of their careers to help them reach their fullest potential.

In 2004, McDonald’s began offering a University Accredited Programme (UAP) and invests over $500,000 in its UAP scholarships annually. In 2009, the UAP partnered with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to offer an intensive training programme in hospitality/food and beverage management.

Open to all employees, those selected for the UAP undergo a formal programme tailored to match their job functions. Upon graduation, they receive a nationally recognised Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Diploma in Food & Beverage (F&B) Service.

To date, over 400 employees have earned the diploma and the programme has been a good opportunity for those who did not complete their formal education to acquire recognised qualifications. Currently, 100 per cent of McDonald’s restaurant managers in Singapore have a diploma, a UAP diploma or degree.

Mr Albert Chau, 60, started out as a trainee restaurant manager in 1978 and is currently a business consultant overseeing seven McDonald’s outlets. Mr Chau, who recently graduated from the UAP programme, says: “The UAP gave me a different perspective on how different departments function.” He received training in areas such as management hospitality, service management and cost control.

Training and cultivating life-long skills

Improving productivity is a long-term and continuing process. Every worker has to continuously seek to learn to avoid being stagnant and end up falling behind. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc once said: “As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot. It’s the reason why we encourage our people to seize the myriad of training and development opportunities available.”

The fast food chain provides equal growth opportunities for all of its employees, regardless of age. An example is Ms Audrey Ang, a 58-year-old mother of three, who is now a senior restaurant manager. She joined McDonald’s as a trainee manager in 1983 and exemplifies life-long learning by being the oldest among McDonald’s recent batch of UAP diploma graduates. 

“I have been given many opportunities to acquire new knowledge and develop skills that will last me a lifetime, and this inspires me to push on and improve myself even further,” says Ms Ang, whose enthusiasm and determination has been recognised by an Outstanding Store Manager Award.

Training for future leaders

The highest form of training offered by McDonald’s is leadership training. Only by developing potential leaders, can companies take their business to the next level in terms of sustainability and competitiveness.

The UAP degree scholarship programme, launched in 2010, is a step above the UAP diploma programme and the first in the industry. Ten aspiring achievers are given the chance to undergo a 21-month intensive programme specialising in food and beverage management. Upon graduation, these students receive a bachelor’s degree in Business and Management with Honours.

A well-trained workforce that is productive and flexible performs more competently and competitively, driving real business results. Well-trained leaders pave the way for a stronger brand and a brighter future. Ultimately, a company that trains at all levels, trains for the future.