Zarina Osman from McDonald’s Malaysia Shares How to Put Fun in People Management

Prepared by: AP. Dr. Rossilah Jamil

Our alumna Zarina Osman (Master of Business Administration 2015), Senior Director of Human Capital for Gerbang Alaf Restaurants Sdn. Bhd. (McDonald’s Malaysia) talks about people first strategy at the Quick Service giant. 

McDonald’s Malaysia is a well-known employer brand, having won multiple prominent awards recognising its people practices. Some of these include the Best Employer Award from 2009 to 2019, Best Employer for Women 2015, Best Employer for Generation Y 2013, Commitment to Talent Focus Award 2019, Best Company to Work for in Asia 2019, and Malaysia’s Most Improved Healthiest Workplace for Large Organisations. 

Zarina is in the heart of this success. She has been with the company’s human resources (HR) for the past 13 years and an additional 17 years prior to managing the operations team. Zarina believes every individual has a purpose in life and it is her responsibility as a leader to bring the best out of the individuals. Her roles at McDonald include overseeing the HR business partner functions comprising of training, learning and development, strategic rewards, employee engagement, talent development, and industrial relations. 

Her proudest career pinnacle is when being awarded the President’s Award in 2015, a prestigious recognition by McDonald’s global office reserved for the Top 1% of its global workforce. 

“Our approach to people is based on employee value propositions, which focuses on treating employees as family and friends”, she said.

“We make work fun. Our culture is informal.. we work hard, we play harder. Staff can depend on each other to support their work and personal needs. Most of us, including me, joined the company very young, at the entry-level position, starting from restaurant crews. It is easy to find staff who have been working with us for 10, 15 years. Our built-in and systematic employee development programme allowed us to climb up the ladder”, she added.

McDonald’s Malaysia currently employs more than 14,000 people in over 300 restaurants across the country. The brand is expanding with plans to add more outlets and people in the next few years. The company hires only Malaysians, which is a commendable strategy to support the local employment market. 

Zarina attributed her career growth partly to her time doing MBA at AHIBS. 

“I am impressed with the program structure which has theory class and also real industry case studies. Student gets to know both sides, theory knowledge and actual implementation or practical in the industry. The structure enriches students’ learning. MBA helps me to be better in my strategic thinking and helps the organization to come out with strong long term business strategy”, she said.

She also praised the programme for its flexibility in catering to the needs of working students.

AHIBS has a standing Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with McDonald’s Malaysia on a talent development programme. In the coming October 2021 semester, several more staff will join AHIBS MBA. One of them is Marzita Primus, Manager at Training, Learning and Development Department, who is another McDonald’s homegrown talent whose potential is polished due to the company’s genuine care for its people.