McDonald’s: minimum wage wins no devotion

McDonald’si personalikoordinaator Aleksandr Michelson ei usu, et miinimumpalka saavalt töötajalt tasuks oodata erilist pühendumust. Sellepärast maksab restoranikett oma töötajatele vähemalt 60 protsenti miinimumpalgast rohkem.

PHOTO: Toomas Tatar

As recently as a couple years ago, 150-200 people responded to McDonald’s job offers. Now, a mere 30. Of those, only 40 per cent are «interviewable», according to the fast food chain’s Estonian personnel coordinator Aleksandr Michelson. In two last years, labour market has undergone quite a change, he says. Admitting that, as employers, they feel the results of people leaving for work abroad.

You say only 40 per cent of CVs sent meet your requirements. What’s wrong with the rest? Why won’t the others qualify?

It feels like people send CVs to numerous companies, without giving a thought to whether they are fit for the job or whether the job meets their requirements.

We don’t require that newcomers have deep experience in services; rather that they are able to acquire new skills and are able to relate to clients according to our culture.

We expect good command of the Estonian language, non-Estonians have to present language certificate. In Tallinn, we also require Russian language skills on communication level; knowing English will be a plus as we get many foreign customers.

We check the language out at interview. Also, a candidate must be able to substantiate why he or she wants to work with us. For new employees, we provide training ourselves.

In Estonia, labour market is bad. What about the other Baltic States?

In Estonia, unemployment is down by nearly a half, since 2010, and people with skills and experience are in high demand. For those seeking jobs, this is good news of course. Even though in Latvia and Lithuania unemployment has not changed as forcefully, the trend is still there.

Just some few years ago, people were willing to do any job for any money. Now, with more jobs on offer, more pay is sought. On the one hand, this is understandable, for daily expenses rise more rapidly than salaries. On the other hand, employers cannot keep up with the salary requirements, for product prices also have a ceiling.

But maybe salary is the issue? How much to you offer, for newcomers?

I assure you our salaries are competitive. Many companies keep their service personnel at minimum wages (€320 a month – edit.), in McDonald’s restaurants, beginners’ pay is 60 per cent higher (about €500 – edit.). We have flexible duty charts – all employees may choose the more suitable times to work. That’s the very reason we are popular with students, people desiring to work seasonally or part-time.

What’s more, whoever is motivated and hardworking, usually climbs the career ladder quick and gets paid better. It would be wrong to say we have trouble finding people. Rather: it now takes longer to find new people. Of course, we do keep an eye on the labour market, and, should things get difficult, we will not alter standards of quality, rather raising salaries.

Estonian entrepreneurs complain at every opportunity that employees are hard to find. At the same time I know unemployed people who don’t go to work for the simple reason of services’ sector wages being too low to make a normal living. Are customer assistants really supposed to get minimum pay?

I don’t believe one can expect extra effort, devotion or motivation from an employee on minimum wage. Therefore, we pay at least 60 per cent more to ours. That’s the breakeven point for us – where we can get good people and still be able to pay them.

How many do you employ in Estonia? How high is the employee turnover? What kinds of bonuses do you offer?

In Estonian restaurants, we employ 535 people, more in summer. We do have a high employee turnover, as we use lots of seasonal workers. At the same time, we do have people who came for a season, to begin with – but then they stayed and made a career.