The Olympics and Paralympics may be over, but the successes will be hard to forget. Jez Langhorn, vice-president of people at McDonald’s, reflects on a summer of achievements in London.
At the close of the Olympic Games, Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), described the London 2012 Games as “happy and glorious”. A few weeks later, Sir Philip Craven, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) chairman, declared London 2012 “the greatest Paralympic Games ever”.
What fantastic recognition for our achievements. As a nation, I think we collectively surprised ourselves at quite how successful the Games were and, in particular, at the warmth and sincerity of the welcome the UK gave to the world.
McDonald’s: official restaurant of the Games
From a personal perspective, I’m incredibly proud of the role McDonald’s played in helping to make London 2012 such a success. For the first time, we were involved in two different ways: as the official restaurant of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as presenting partner for the London 2012 Games Maker programme.
In this latter role, we used our expertise in customer service and people development and our nationwide presence, to help the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) attract, select and train the diverse workforce that helped ensure the summer was a success. Through a two-year sponsorship, we provided trainers, materials and our own training facilities to help select and train the Games Makers.
It was this dual sponsorship that provided us with opportunities to become more closely involved in the delivery of a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games than ever before.
As official restaurant for London 2012, it was our task to serve food to the streams of spectators at the Olympic Park. During the Games, these restaurants were actually between 10 and 12 times busier than an average McDonald’s in the UK and were the busiest in the world. On our busiest day during the Olympic Games, we served more than 55,000 customers in our two customer-facing restaurants alone.
The Olympics and Paralympics really tested our ability to react quickly and to keep smiling no matter what. And I couldn’t be more proud of our 2,000 top-performing employees from across the UK who formed our Olympic Champion Crew staffing these restaurants and who worked extremely hard to make our customers’ visits to McDonald’s an enjoyable experience.
These employees were selected in November 2011 after a series of “X-factor style” selection events, called Super Team events, which assessed the 6,000 ‘champions’ who had already been selected from their individual restaurants for their outstanding achievement and dedication.
We held around 100 events across the UK which measured our champions’ ability to deliver the highest standards of customer service, quality of menu item and ability to work as part of a team in a fast-paced environment. Each candidate also completed a written assessment that tested their operations knowledge. The successful candidates formed our Olympic Champion Crew.
I was blown away by the consistent focus and commitment of our people and delighted by the appreciation the public felt for the level of service, quality and value they experienced visiting our restaurants.
I’m also thrilled with the positive impact the 70,000 Games Makers had on the success of London 2012. This is the first time an organising committee has turned to a commercial sponsor to be involved in the volunteering programme.
Jez Langhorn is speaking at 12.00-12.45 on 22 November 2012, the second day of the HR Performance conference and exhibition at Excel, London.
Personnel Today’s strategy editor Noel O’Reilly will also be appearing at the event, hosting a live video link with Dave Ulrich, the creator of the HR business partner model.
McDonald’s stepped into this role because of our experience in working in a fast-paced environment, providing quick, consistent customer service to 2.5 million people worldwide every day.
We worked with LOCOG for three years to help it create the selection and training programme for the volunteers. This training made sure the Games Makers were prepared to shine during their moment in the spotlight. It’s a feat they undoubtedly achieved, with athletes and spectators thanking them time and time again for their energy and enthusiasm, and the Games Makers receiving a standing ovation at the closing ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Our planning for the Games took five years and, from the outset, we were clear that we wanted to demonstrate the strength of our brand and business. I think we achieved this and, as life returns to normal, it is our responsibility to play our part in securing a lasting legacy for London 2012.
As part of this commitment, we are offering the Games Makers the chance to gain a nationally recognised qualification in customer service that recognises their achievements and that we will hand over to our sector skills council, People 1st, for them to use across the hospitality sector to help drive up standards across our industry in the future.
The Games Makers have shown the world how good British customer service can be. This should inject confidence into the hospitality sector, which is fantastic news for jobs and skills. We need to harness this confidence to create a sustainable legacy for our sector.
However, for me, the ultimate legacy of the London 2012 Games may well be something far less tangible – but far more valuable – to all of us. We showed the world that we can deliver an event which meets and exceeds the highest expectations; and deliver it with warmth, charm, energy and a quintessential Britishness. Just imagine what we might collectively achieve if HR professionals could help to harness this ability to “do it right” in organisations across the UK.