We are honored to have Alyssa Moten, McDonald's owner-operator in this series of interviews with feature franchisees.
Before going into the franchise business, Alyssa earned her Masters in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and served as a Talent Development Program Manager for Credit Suisse. Learn how she decides where to open store locations, what job boards she uses to source employees, plus tactics to optimize profits.
Lydia: What inspired you to become McDonald's owner-operator?
Alyssa: Growing up my parents always instilled a strong work ethic in me and I've had my fair share of jobs - I grew up working in the restaurants. After college, I've worked in the nonprofit sector, I've worked in the for-profit sector, working for the firms Credit Suisse and in Morgan Stanley but I wanted more than a job and McDonald's gives you that, McDonald's gives you a career at every level, there's an opportunity for growth and development so I wanted to be somewhere where I could see myself for years to come and touch people and work with people on a daily basis and it's so multifaceted. You get to wear so many different hats everyday, learn about landscaping and plumbing as well as finance and marketing so just being able to touch on so many different levels of the business keeps the wheels turning and I just love that no day is ever the same.
Lydia: What was that transition like going from being in New York and in the finance world to McDonald's and are there any lessons you took with you?
Alyssa: The professional lessons that you take with working these firms is definitely transferable to McDonald's in terms of communication. I used to work with a lot of senior bankers and junior bankers and working in different time zones, working with different countries so your oral and written communication had to be very precise especially with people who like to have a high level for everything right. Learning how to high level my communication, learning how to tailor my email communication, as well as tone to make sure that you're getting the right message across and in the right way to the right person. Knowing who the key players are that that was definitely a critical moment in my career in terms of learning how to conduct yourself in a professional setting and knowing who the key players are in terms of how you should be communicating with them.
Lydia: When you think about the job postings and your interview tactics, is there anything that you've brought with you from the finance world to McDonald's?
Alyssa: I would say just knowing how to streamline communication, knowing who to reach out to. There's a book called Don't Bark Up the Wrong Tree. So knowing how and who to contact for different things and I tell that to my teams all the time you know even as a crew person hey go to your shift manager you don't always have to go to your GM. Let's see if there's a more efficient way to communicate to get you your response or your or your answer faster.
Text Messaging in the Hiring Process
Lydia: When you think about how to improve efficiency, what does text messaging look like in your process? Where do you use text message versus phone versus email versus in-person meetings?
Alyssa: The start of the applicant process is all text-based for us. We found that it has really made the process more efficient and helped with that ghosting - with a number of follow-ups that Workstream provides, automatic follow-ups that you don't have to be hands-on with at all. From the time the applicant applies to the time that they are potentially sitting down for an interview if it's in person that is all text-based and we live in such a digital culture now I can't see doing it another way. Millennials don't want to fill out a paper application or come in or necessarily even upload a resume anymore. Everything is text-based so it's really helped to make our process more efficient and touch the people who want to work at McDonald's.
Attracting and Hiring New Talents
Lydia: Where do you find the people who want to work at McDonald's? Which job boards are working best for you right now?
Alyssa: Indeed has always been a strong player for us from a crew and manager level. I'm seeing more applicants come in through LinkedIn and a little bit more non-traditional way so they'll reach out to me and want to know how to become an owner-operator or become a general manager or supervisor, so I've seen that as well. We've also utilized platforms like Glassdoor, Craigslist, Snagajob but I could say Indeed has definitely been our strongest asset in terms of attracting and retaining crew and managers.
Lydia: What is your process for attracting and hiring the managers?
Alyssa: Flooding the job boards - that's what I love about Workstream is that it's not only posting to one or two job boards it can reach out to seven or ten and so you're really able to cast that wide network to be able to attract different types of talent from multiple sites. That's the advantage of Workstream right there and in terms of having a broader network and pull.
Lydia: Do you have any recommendations for rapid mass hiring? So hundreds of people at a time for hourly team members and salaried managers.
Alyssa: I've never had to hire hundreds at a time so I have not been in that position yet. By reducing turnover you don't need to be. If you are interested in rapid hiring I would have multiple hiring managers probably over that process, if you're going to need a hundred applicants at a time I think you would need an infrastructure to support that.
Lydia: Do you use any other creative marketing for job openings to capture people outside of LinkedIn Indeed Glassdoor?
Alyssa: So we use in the restaurant our text to apply program which also links to Workstream, which will link to those job boards. Having visibility up in the restaurant in terms of creative signing, you can get it through Workstream or you can do it on your own but having those text to apply, information on those signs is very helpful and also posting them in schools for example that always works.
Lydia: Do you hire a lot of people who are in high school as part time?
Alyssa: Yes we do and actually in the summer or after school they can work.
Lydia: Right now, you can't just post the sign "Help wanted" and have people wander in with all the limitations going on with COVID. How are you guys thinking about the interviewing right now? Are you doing more virtual interviews?
Alyssa: We are. We are very excited for Workstream's capability to allow us to have that virtual interview feature, it allows you to see the applicant just like you were interviewing them in the restaurant, you know what is their body language like what is their eye contact, like are they a little bit more perhaps timid and would be better fit for a grill position or do you see that bubbly personality come through and automatically that she would want them to be in a more of a service position. So the virtual interviewing process has definitely made it easier for us to make quicker assessments even during a pandemic like this because of the technology.
Assessing for Quality Candidates
Lydia: Are there any sort of curveball questions do you like to throw out candidates or yeah just different ways that you assess people.
Alyssa: I like to role-play a lot and my hiring manager now who does a lot of our hiring, she is also a phenomenal role player. I think behavioral interviews they can only tell you so much how is a person really going to act if you've put them in that position right that pretend position to see how they would interact with a guest. I like to ask them "Hey pretend you're on for a counter. I'd like you to take my order. Ring it up you know give me a farewell greeting and make sure that I'm pleased as we're going through this process" and so then actually putting themselves in that position you get to see a lot again, are they making that eye contact are they bubbly, are they a little bit more timid, does it seem like they've been doing this for years and have management potential. So those role play situations can really help you make better behavioral types of assessments.
Lydia: When you think about the management potential are you looking for that with all the candidates you interview? Are you thinking about the career growth there?
Alyssa: Everybody who comes to an interview whether virtually or in person we're always looking for more. That's McDonald's. It's really the America's first best job for a reason because the potential is just limitless. We have lots of owner-operators today who have actually started as crew, it was their first job. It's such an inspiring story when you hear somebody said hey I started on fries and and look where I am now and I remember this person pulled me up or I remember this general manager interviewed me or this owner-operator interviewed me and because of them I'm in the position that I am today. It's really an excellent story about growth leadership and development.
Lydia: What are you doing to make people feel valued and making sure that turnover is left?
Alyssa: For turnover, the one thing that you can do is focus on your retention and not so much the hiring. Retention is the critical piece to making sure that you are reducing your turnover so creating a fun and engaging culture will trump anything else. People want to come to work because of the people that they work with. The monetary aspect will only last so far so what else do you bring to the table. We've gone to Cedar Point, which is an amusement park in Ohio, we have an annual trip there. We've done pizza parties, I've given away prom dresses and tuxedos at prom time, we have anniversary spin wheel gifts, every milestone you get to win a prize and we make it a big deal and celebration prizes. We have gift cards or massages or a paid day off - that one seems to work pretty well. Fun is the key, you hear that people often don't leave their jobs, they leave their boss.
Lydia: How do you really make sure that your bosses are motivated to be incredible bosses and how do you check the performance and incentivize them?
Alyssa: We have bi-annual performance reviews to start, so there's more than just the performance reviews, there's the constant daily feedback. You should never get to a performance review and it should be a surprise. I think just having that constant feedback with your managers to make sure that everybody is aligned it's very helpful. But in terms of motivating them, it's really finding out what their motivation is. It's different for everybody there's no one-size-fits-all. Once you are able to tap into their motivation that helps you to move the needle right why are they doing what they're doing.
Ensuring Fair Hiring Practices
Lydia: How do you make sure that your managers are maintaining fair and non-discriminatory hiring practices they think about who they're bringing on and what questions they're asking in the interview process?
Alyssa: I think it's very important to have a consistent script so you are really looking at the responses to the questions and it doesn't have to be a script written down, but you should be asking the same questions to every single applicant because demographic factors have no place in an interview. As long as we're looking at their responses then we make sure that we are basing our assessment based off of what they tell us more so than what other characteristics they bring to the table.
Lydia: What have you done in your own business to promote equality and create opportunities for advancement?
Alyssa: I don't think there's a better workplace than McDonald's to create equality and opportunity for advancement. I was very connected to a lot of the black community groups in Michigan, as well as our mayor of South field where I was in Michigan making sure that people are informed about the census and how that makes a difference for their household and their jobs. Also working with underserved communities every year to give out Thanksgiving and Christmas giveaways to the sick and shut-in. I think for me it's more about having my employees understand the bigger picture so creating opportunities for them to volunteer and give back and see that it's not an equal playing field out here and so how can we as a company do more to give back to those in need.
Staying Updated with Useful Publications
Lydia: What sort of forums or industry news publications do you follow in order to stay up to date and stay connected with everyone else?
Alyssa: I check my stock market news every morning, that usually updates pretty frequently about what's going on in our business and in our competitor's business. Forbes Business Insider, I'm a news junkie so I'd like to get my hands on a few different sources but I'd say those for industry news.
Internal Communication Methods
Lydia: With your managers, how do you roll out different training materials and all the things that are going on right now with COVID? When you've gone off of the zoom conference call with other operators and you're like that's a great idea. I want to implement that at my stores. How do you disseminate that information to the general managers and the different teams?
Alyssa: All channels. For email, we use an app that I love called Crew. It is the GroupMe right with a little bit more capability to it you can post schedules, you can send different fun emojis. I love the accountability piece when you send a message, a little bubble pops up saying that somebody read that message. That's what I really love about Crew, it's not like oh I didn't see that email or that message. Other than that, we rely on group chats, email, Zoom meetings, as well as in-person. We are still considered essential employees and we are in the restaurant, so it is necessary to go into the restaurants and making sure that that message is getting trickled down through signage and through training.
Lydia: Is there a motto or quote that you live by?
Alyssa: I live by the quote "some birds are not meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright" and so how I take that is just don't follow the mold right, don't be afraid to be bold be courageous step outside of the box and do something different.
Want to learn more about Workstream? Contact us today!
Lydia Fayal Hall is Head of Marketing at Workstream. She previously held leadership roles at OneSignal and Chalkup, acquired by Microsoft. Lydia has written for publications including The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. She is an alum of UPenn, Johns Hopkins, and YCombinator IK12. Originally from Stonington, CT, Lydia now resides in San Francisco, CA with her Australian Shepherd, Indy.