“Think orchestration … not control. If you are using social media for a brand, you already know that you cannot control the conversation with your customer. In a very similar way you should not seek to control the conversation within your organization as well.”
- Rick Wion, Social Media Director of McDonald’s, in a guest blog post to pivotcon.com, February 2013
“Is social media growing beyond marketing?
We’re working with our HR teams more, using social media as a recruitment tool. … Our insights teams work more with us, as well, taking what we monitor in social and using it to inform operations, culinary and HR.”
- Rick Wion, in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News, April 15, 2013
And yet, in the last six months, McDonald’s has had multiple social media disasters related to their company’s HR documents and ventures.
A sample monthly budget from McDonald’s McResources website
- In July, McDonald’s released an employee budget guide on its McResources website with unachievable recommendations. ($600 rent when the average rent in the US is over $1000, for example.)
- In October, activists released a video that demonstrated McDonald’s internal helpline telling employees to sign up for food stamps. The National Employment Law Project estimates that American taxpayers subsidize McDonald’s non-management employees by $1.2 billion in taxes per year (PDF). This video was part of a series of videos pointing out the inconsistencies in the content of McDonald’s McResources website.
- In November, McDonald’s added more tone-deaf tips to the McResources website, including ones that suggested employees struggling to make ends meet should sell their unopened holiday presents and other possessions, as well as break food into smaller pieces to feel more full. These recommendations came alongside others that suggested employees should take two vacations a year, and sing to relieve stress instead of complaining about it.
- Earlier this month, McDonald’s added etiquette tips explaining how much to tip for luxuries inaccessible to the majority of its front-line workers.
- Most recently, McDonald’s told employees that they should minimize their consumption of fast food to be healthier.
And the kicker? Though the McResources website was ostensibly “employees-only,” in practice, it was accessible to anyone who registered, as it did not verify employee credentials.
McDonald’s reaction: they shut down the McResources website, and employees must now call a helpline.
Having such a website does make it easier for external people to point out inconsistencies, but not having one doesn’t make it impossible. Remember that even McDonald’s telephone helpline got recorded and released to the public. If your company’s treatment of its employees is so poor that it makes headlines continuously, maybe you need to do something about it. All the marketing and social media efforts in the world can’t make up for misguided internal policies.
Throughout this, McDonald’s has maintained that the controversial content for McResources was created by third-party experts – Visa, Wealth Watchers International, Nurtur Health. But outsourcing content creation doesn’t absolve McDonald’s of the responsibility of verifying said content for appropriateness and relevance before providing it to their employees. These documents may have been intended for internal use only, but their tone-deaf delivery delivered the message from management to front-line employees: “We have no idea who you people are, nor what your actual needs are.”
At this point, McDonald’s needs their Chief Human Resources Officer, Richard Floersch, to get aboard the social media train. McDonald’s considers Twitter to be a major part of their social strategy; Floersch should join the conversation there. This would demonstrate that McDonald’s views its brand reputation as important enough that a C-level executive with company-wide decision-making power is paying attention to what its customers are saying about it on social media, and truly listening for ways it can improve.
Floersch’s department has been responsible for the employee guidance fiascos of the last six months. Even if third parties were responsible for actual content production, did McDonald’s not bother to read through the content before releasing it? Did they not understand that this content would become a major part of the online conversation about McDonald’s, and that this would reflect poorly on the company? Did they not listen to their own social expert, Rick Wion, quoted at the top of this post?
McDonald’s needs to remember: your internal content is part of your recruitment package. Leaks happen. Does your content make people want to work for you?