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Honoring Diversity the McDonald's Way

Dialogue and the exchange of cultural information happen through the fast-food giant's Intercultural Learning Practice and Intercultural Learning Lab.

February 8, 2013
Related Topics: Diversity Training, Diversity, Talent Management, Workplace Culture

Pat Harris is global chief diversity officer at McDonald's Corp. overseeing an evolving diversity initiative. Harris says she rejects the word "program" because it implies a beginning and an end, and at McDonald's diversity education has been woven through the corporate culture for decades, even while it has continued to change.

"Education has been consistent since the mid-'70s, actually," says Harris, who started working for what was then the company's affirmative action department. "We began at that time with the education initiative called 'Managing the Changing Workforce.' We knew that education would drive our business and ensure that everyone understood diversity."

Now, she says, dialogue and the exchange of cultural information happen through the Intercultural Learning Practice and the Intercultural Learning Lab, which is administered by the diversity education director. In addition, numerous employee networks have been created for every racial and cultural group, including gays and lesbians and working mothers.

"Part of this is to recognize and honor the differences that exist within the organization," Harris says.

"We want to make sure that people feel they can contribute their best, that they can bring their whole selves to work, and I think we've done a very good job of creating that environment because we do not want people to leave part of themselves outside of McDonald's when they come to work," she says, "because if they do that they will not be able to contribute their best.

"Whether it's our employees or our customers walking in through the door, we want everyone to feel respected and valued."

Susan G. Hauser is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. Comment below or email

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