What McDonald’s can teach us about running a corporate health program January 20th, 2016, by Ken Buckley

McDonald’s isn’t the first brand name that comes to mind when you think corporate wellness. Yet the company we all love to hate has some good lessons for us corporate wellness professionals. Here are 10 things corporate health managers can learn from Maccas:

1. Promote, promote, promote.

You can’t fault McDonald’s for their promotion. Those guys are everywhere.

They promote to every kind of market – I can think of a recent ad for kids, for parents, grandparents, 20-somethings, teenagers and even hipster foodies.

Lesson: Be ubiquitous with your marketing – put posters in the hallways, tent cards in the meeting rooms, toilets and hallways. And update them regularly.

Throughout the year, make sure your marketing taps into the needs of different employee types. Have something for the fit ones, the trying-to-be-healthy-but-not-there-yet ones, even for the smoking-non-exercisers. Appeal to the Millennials, the Gen Ys, the Gen Xs and Boomers.

2. Promote the new stuff

McDonald’s is constantly promoting its new items (always “for a short time only”). This not only promotes the new item, but gives another excuse to keep the brand name top of mind.

(Actually, they’re probably piloting this new item in Australia, to see how well it sells. If successful, they’ll then roll it out to similar countries. See point 10 below)

Lesson: Run small but new activities regularly throughout the year, and refresh your marketing to promote them.

3. Offer consistent quality

Maccas’ food is predictable. You don’t expect 5-star quality, but you do expect it to be pretty much the same as last time. You know what you’re getting.

That’s not to say you should aim for mass-produced crap with your corporate health program. But I’m guessing you’re on a bit of a tight budget, so you can’t offer 24/7 personal trainers for every employee. So what do you do?

Lesson: You aim for consistently good value. It build trust with your employees. It encourages them to “buy” next time.

Remember, employees pay with their time. They have to trust that your next event is worth 30 minutes of their time. That all depends on how good your last activity was.

4. Keep quality standards

If you’ve ever worked for a McDonald’s, you’d know that the food safety standards are actually pretty high. Food that’s been sitting for too long is supposed to be thrown out. The idea is that it might be cheap and mass produced, but it’s safe. You can trust it.

Lesson: Have your own core standards for corporate wellness program. This would cover standards for outsourced providers, plus activities that you organise in house. Stick to the standards, even if it means making changes. As with point 3, it creates trust.

5. Cover core needs

Regardless of whether someone is looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner or anything in between, they know McDonald’s can meet that need (though ideally not all on the same day).

Lesson: For your wellness program, make sure you cover your employees’ core health needs: nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep and mental health. Throw in some financial and social too. Become the “go-to” place for health at work.

6. Consider gimmicks

If you have young kids you know the power of a plastic cup with their favourite movie character. They want that thing bad. The actual value of the item is irrelevant.

Lesson: I’m not suggesting you start giving out plastic action figures, or even free water bottles. But do consider offering a tangible extra to draw your employees in or to get them to turn up to events.

A free breakfast with a seminar; a free booklet with a heart check; a draw to win a gift voucher. It might seem gimmicky, but as long as your actual program has substance, it won’t look cheap.

7. Provide choice

In Australia, there are currently 105 items on the McDonald’s menu. And that doesn’t include different sizes, or the “Create your taste” burger combinations.

Maccas might seem generic, but once you think about it, it’s incredibly customised. You can choose your items, their size and dozens of extras. And do you want fries with that?

Lesson: It is possible do this on a budget with your wellness program. Alternatives such as digital wellness platforms provide a lot of choice. In our Activate platform, employees can choose from 10 topics, 10 DIY Programs and hundreds of how-to articles – and that’s on top of the challenges and monthly themes.

8. Adapt to trends

People want “artisan” bread? Give them sourdough.

People want healthy choices for kids? Apple slices.

People are rejecting trans-fat? Change the oil.

No-one’s going to pay for crap coffee? Employee trained baristas.

Lesson: The only “don’t do” lesson I’d point out here is this: don’t wait until criticism reaches a peak before you adapt. You don’t want employees picketing your head office.

Keep asking and listening. Run regular surveys, find out what employees really think of your wellness program, and take on board their suggestions for change.

9. Keep innovating

McDonald’s – innovative? Apparently so. They actually create and test hundreds of menu items each month to find the perfect new addition. They even have a team – yes, a team – of executive chefs to advise on new items.

While the branding and the core promise stays the same, and while employees have to follow strict protocols across their 140,000 stores, McDonald’s doesn’t shy away from trying new things.

Lesson: Maintain your core mission, values and employee promise, but try new things and see how they fly. If it doesn’t work, learn from what did, and use the experience to try a better idea next time.

10. Adapt for culture

In Malaysia, you can get Burbur Ayam – chicken strips in a savoury porridge with chili, shallots and ginger.

In Brazil, you can get Pao de Queijo – a kind of cheesy bread you eat for breakfast.

And in Germany, you can get gooey camembert cheese on your chicken burger. Yep camembert.

Lesson: (You don’t have to be a multinational to learn from this lesson – it’s just as relevant if you have subcultures in one office)

Firstly, it’s OK to offer different services to different employee groups. It doesn’t have to be “fair”. Base your service offerings on need – ideally as identified through a corporate health risk assessment, or a corporate heart check.

Secondly, share what works. Look at the little differences in how people do your program across different worksites. If a group in Accounting are standing up every 30 minutes to do jumping jacks then suggest it to others.

 

In summary, while we don’t suggest your corporate wellness program should be associated with mass-produced, commercialised capitalism, there are corporate health lessons to be learnt from McDonald’s.

What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments.

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