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Caspers Company McDonald’s and its employees get extra value out of tuition assistance


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Posted In: Case Studies, Students, Workforce Insight

Feb • 26 • 2015

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s understood the value of talent: “If we are going to go anywhere, we’ve got to have talent. And I’m going to put my money in talent,” he said. Today, Kroc’s philosophy is a guiding principal for McDonald’s at the corporate and franchise levels. McDonald’s leaders are always looking for better ways to keep employees engaged and the business moving forward.

Embodying this philosophy, the Caspers Company McDonald’s restaurants in Florida have long offered GED and scholarship programs. And in 2001, the franchise established a tuition reimbursement program for managers and crew. But as Vice President of Human Resources Ed Shaw knows, tuition assistance is only valuable when employees pursue a degree program that engages them and provides a good return on the investment.

“Since we started offering tuition assistance, I’ve seen more and more of our employees gravitate toward private institutions, which are very expensive,” said Ed. “In some cases, one class at a private institution was the same price of an entire semester of community college, so frankly, I was getting disenchanted.” His point of view is a common one among the 76 percent of employers that report offering a tuition reimbursement benefit.

Higher education meant for working adults

A call from the McDonald’s Corporation touting their new education partner, College for America at Southern New Hampshire University, reinvigorated Ed. At only $2,500 a year per student, he said that College for America not only provided better value than many other education options but also would be a good fit for his employees.

“We think that College for America offers a good way to encourage our people to pursue higher education.”
—Edward Shaw

“A few years ago, we started an Internet-based program called Restaurant Department Management, which helps managers better track activities, events, and responsibilities within a restaurant. When we rolled out the program, we quickly realized that there was a tremendous spread of knowledge among managers, with many of them lacking some key skills,” explained Ed. “We thought College for America would be a good and convenient way to encourage people to increase their knowledge. And our people were already used to learning online, so in a way College for America just added more elements to our learning system.”

“In my experience, the better educated people are, the more confidence they have and the better they feel about their job. We also want something from an education investment, of course, which is better and more loyal leaders.”
—Ed Shaw

Taking employees to the next level

According to Ed, the great thing about College for America program is how relevant the program is to his staff’s day-to-day activities. “Our management teams have to get together a lot in person and over the phone, so they have to know how to work together. Many of the College for America competencies directly address collaboration. You don’t get this with any other program that I’m aware of,” Ed explained. He also pointed out that it’s nice to see immediate returns on the educational investment. “You don’t want to wait two years to see if an employee graduates. It’s better when you can help someone do a better job right now and progress quicker.”

“If you can reduce your turnover and make a more loyal employee, one that would go the extra mile for you because of what you’ve done for them, it’s a win-win all the way.”
— Ed Shaw

Ed said that as Caspers Company McDonald’s rolled out the College for America program, the feedback was very positive. “Our people were telling me how great it made them feel that we were investing in them,” said Shaw. He added that he was delighted to hear this because he knows how important employee happiness relates to loyalty.

Multiple levels of value

Ed is encouraged by the early results of the College for America program. Historically, Shaw has seen a lot of employees abandon education programs because of costs and other factors. “Everyone I’ve talked to who is in the program was very enthusiastic—and in the case of one of our supervisors, even passionate—which was great to hear,” he said. “What we’re looking for is a better-educated workforce, including better leaders and people who can move the company forward,” explained Ed. “College for America is not only affordable, it seems to have taken a leap forward in using technology for improving education in a way that a lot of schools aren’t delivering.”

“What I saw in College for America was a leap forward in technology for education that a lot of schools aren’t delivering.”
—Ed Shaw

He is pleased that the College for America approach really complements McDonald’s commitment to education. “I think what College for America does with its learning management system ties nicely with our business model and systems. And the projects and project management that our people are having to do in the program will help take them to the next level,” he concluded.

For more information about how you can bring CfA to your organization, visit collegeforamerica.org/employers or call 1-855-764-8CFA