McBosses Are Okay

Discussion
Sep 11, 2007

By George Anderson

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and the Instituto de Empresa Business School in Spain pretty much assumed (along with a good percentage of the general population) that fast food franchisees were the kinds of bosses that you wanted someone else to work for.

It turns out, they acknowledge in a Knowledge@Wharton article, that franchise owners make for good bosses and the jobs they offer are often much better than the independent competition.

Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources and Monika Hamori, a management professor at Instituto de Empresa Business School in Spain, researched and wrote the report Are Franchises Bad Employers?.

After analyzing data from a national employment survey designed by Prof. Cappelli, the researchers concluded that franchises paid their employees more and offered better training than like-sized independents.

The independents, however, did have some advantages working in their favor, according to the researchers. Employee turnover was lower, in part, because of a higher percentage of full-timers. Managers at independents also tended to be better educated.

“A fair assessment might be that franchise jobs offer more [than non-franchise ones] to lower-quality workers,” according to the researchers.

Prof. Cappelli said the findings serve to dispel some myths surrounding franchise and independent business owners. It “takes away from the idea that there are good guys and bad guys out there [among employers]. On some dimensions, franchises are good, and on some they aren’t…. Our view is that different companies have different models. Some are good at training, and so it makes sense to train. Others would rather pursue a low-wage, churning strategy.”

A common criticism of so-called McJobs is that they lead to a career dead end. Prof. Cappelli said he believes that too narrow a view is often held by critics who fail to appreciate the experience working in a McDonald’s, for example, can pay off at another job at another company down the line.

“There is a hierarchy of jobs, and other things being equal, people do work their way up,” he said. “But you don’t need six months of work at McDonald’s to work at Applebee’s. It’s just that from the employer’s perspective, it makes you a better bet. The fact that people move that way doesn’t reflect that they are acquiring skills.”

Having the experience of working in a McDonald’s can prove helpful when hiring slows, according to Prof. Cappelli. “For a job that was entry level, like a dishwasher at Applebee’s, they won’t hire anybody unless he has had some work experience. A place like McDonald’s could provide that experience.”

Discussion Questions: What pros and cons do you see associated with finding entry-level work at franchised and independently run businesses? Are franchise operators getting an undeserved rap for being bad bosses? Does it pay for them to even try and overcome people’s negative perceptions of them as employers?

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9 Comments on "McBosses Are Okay"


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Karen McNeely
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

My first job many many years ago was at McDonald’s. In addition to teaching me that “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean” (aka a good work ethic) I was also taught responsibility, cash handling, and management skills.

Although I went to college and went a different direction, McDonald’s and other chains do offer the opportunity for those without a college degree to work their way up the chain into management. It does take drive and hard work to do it, but for those who take the initiative it can be a good opportunity.

Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 8 months ago
I agree with some of the comments that this is a very broad question and that training may be a bit more formalized. Yet, my perception is that training today, if associated with being a ‘better boss’ or a ‘better employee’ may have lost its way. I will grant that I have a bit of bias towards the independent business, just from my own upbringing and background. However, as I think about the training that I received, I don’t really remember much, if any, formal training with the minor exception of running a cash register. Although, even when it came to running a cash register, it was nearly all hands on. In the environment that I grew up in, when you went to work–you went to work. Thus, your training began immediately. All of it came from mentors and there were many of them. In fact, that never ended. Training was constant and consistent. It was done by example and by leading. Today, I believe that there is an assumption that ‘you’ve been trained’ when… Read more »
Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 8 months ago

For teenagers especially but many others as well, learning job skills can mean something as basic as showing up on time, every day, for your job. Having that experience, showing that responsibility, can be a critical credential for a lot of entry-level workers. Building on that to show initiative, ambition, attaining supervisory levels and gaining experience managing others can go along way toward establishing the maturity and confidence that wins better jobs down the line. Well-run franchise operations impart those skills and turn out people who are better for the experience if they want to be.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Franchises offer employees a great alternative to corporate training and great standards to manage by early in their careers. This is something that many companies, including independents, cannot offer. Rigor is developed within a structure and framework of a large corporation, yet still maintained inside the closeness of a small franchise store.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Franchises normally have regulations and requirements that are to be followed in all franchises. As a result, bosses have to follow a set of requirements for their job and that may lend more consistency or at least processes that have been thought about and addressed. Whether or not each franchisee boss follows the regulations and requirements is another question.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
14 years 8 months ago

My perception is that the training at a franchise is usually better and more formalized than at an independent establishment, so that could help account for both better bosses and better employees.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

It depends on the franchise, of course. That said the truth is for a growing number of workers their first job is going to be with either Wal-Mart or a franchise so we better hope franchise bosses are better than we’ve been lead to believe.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
14 years 8 months ago

That’s a pretty broad question. Whether they get a bad rap or not and how valuable they are at work experience depends who you work for.

On the plus side, they offer a solid entry level opportunity and, in the best of circumstances, enable people to develop some managerial skills. A smaller franchise environment can give people the chance to learn skills and be tutored, hopefully, by owners who may have been through the process themselves.

The negative, of course, is the money. Teens will accept it for a time, but no one can live on minimum wage forever. And if you’re not getting any more experience than cleaning the fryers, then it’s time to move on.

I would like to know from the panelists here who they consider to be among the best franchise businesses.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

The appalling staff turnover at most restaurants, franchised or not, speaks for itself. Management rationalizes that high staff turnover is OK because it’s an industry-wide problem. Every so often, you find a restaurant that has much lower staff turnover. If those folks can do it, how come failure is the dominant standard for the majority? If you accept and rationalize low standards, how can you ever improve?

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