As one of southern Illinois’s largest employers, John Moreland knows the importance of providing employees with opportunities for growth and advancement.
For that reason, Moreland — who owns 14 McDonald’s restaurants with wife Mary Moreland and daughter Stephanie Bishop as the Moreland/Bishop Organization — has encouraged and supported his employees to participate in the Archways to Opportunity program. To date, the Moreland/Bishop organization has had more employees participate in the program than any other McDonald’s group. A total of 75 employees have participated in the program, including three who have earned their high school diplomas as a result.
“I think we’re as fortunate as we are to have so many people receive this,” Moreland said of the tuition reimbursement program. “We’re in a high poverty area.”
Moreland’s daughter, Stephanie Bishop, said they have found offering the two-year-old program rewarding because it provides them with a chance to provide their employees with opportunity, as well as with incentive to remain with the company.
“From an employer standpoint, to be able to offer your employees their high-school diploma tuition, to see them better themselves, is important to us, to see them grow as a person,” Bishop said. “It’s really helped us stay competitive out there,” Bishop added. “Jobs are competitive. It’s helped us with the turnover. In sit-down conversations – we call them stay interviews – we’ve used the Archways benefit to get (employees) to stay with us instead of going to a factory job.”
Even among other employers who offer tuition reimbursement, the Archways to Opportunity programs stands out, said Moreland/Bishop Training and Development Director Barb Mileur.
For participants in the Career Online High School, a high school diploma can be achieved at their pace, on their schedule and entirely online. That means they can work and take care of their families without worrying how earning their diploma will fit into their schedules, Mileur said.
“They don’t have to have a grade point average or they don’t have to log a certain number of hours, or something like that, which is usually what a lot of tuition things are necessary. Once they learn that just working at McDonald’s, you can get assistance, it goes a long way,” Mileur said. “We were surprised by the number of people who needed to get high school diplomas, and they’re excited. “They were excited that they were given that opportunity and didn’t have to go to a class five days a week and could work.”
For employees who participate in the college tuition assistance program, they find that working at McDonald’s offers the flexible schedule they need to balance their coursework and their jobs, Mileur added. For that reason, 20 of the employees who have participated in the program have done so for two years in a row.
Retaining and promoting employees as they grow
Building on the other benefits, Bishop/Moreland usually can find a place in management for employees who are earning college degrees. “Those are people who tend to stay on through college, so we can get them into management,” Mileur said.
The Moreland/Bishop Organization has an employee retention rate of 70 percent, Moreland said, more than double the average retention rate of other restaurants in their region of the company. A big part of that, Moreland said, is the value provided by the Archways to Opportunity program. Moreland said he credits Moreland/Bishop’s high participation in the Archways to Opportunity program on their constant promotion of the program, and on a mentorship program they’ve established to coach employees through the program.
Information about the program is shared during new employee training, posters with sign-up sheets are hung around Moreland/Bishop’s restaurants and photos of employees receiving their tuition reimbursement checks are posted on the company’s Facebook page. In each restaurant, an employee who has experience with the program is designated as the program’s “point person,” and anyone interested in participating can sit down and discuss Archways to Opportunity with that point person.
Ultimately, Bishop said, the program’s biggest proponents are the employees who have participated in the program and who are given the opportunity to share their experience. “We’ve seen excitement in the restaurant because they know the check they’ve received, so they’re excited to help the other people,” Bishop said. “It really helps to gain momentum once you find that main person, and it really carries throughout the restaurant.”
Allowing employees to share their successes and help others has had another unexpected benefit for the restaurant, Mileur said: employee enthusiasm, pride and satisfaction. “That really builds their buy-in to the restaurant, doing something to help someone,” she said. “That’s really where our success story is: Other people helping other people.”