· Features

Building a multigenerational workforce that reflects society

The workforce at McDonald's now spans 75 years, from 16-year-olds to those in their eighties

Over the past few years, the UK’s ageing workforce has moved from a point of discussion among academics to a fact of life. A recent report from the CIPD found that almost half of over 55s now expect to work well beyond the age of 65.

In some quarters, this has prompted discussion of intergenerational conflict over jobs and resources, and the pressure that an ageing workforce places on businesses to ensure employment opportunities for people at both ends of the age spectrum. Based on my experiences with McDonald’s, a multigenerational workforce is a great thing for businesses, employees and customers alike.

We employ over 110,000 people across the UK – people of all ages and backgrounds. In fact, the age range of our crew now spans an incredible 75 years - or nine generations - from 16-year-olds gaining their first taste of work, to those in their eighties and nineties who join us for just a couple of shifts a week.

At McDonald’s, all our people are given the same opportunities to grow and build a future with us, to flex their working patterns to their needs, and to be part of a fun and friendly restaurant environment.

The blend of personalities, perspectives and life experiences that I see in our restaurants all over the country is often down to the fact we have people working side by side drawn from across the generations. In a recent survey of 32,000 McDonald’s employees, we found that 94% worked alongside at least one colleague over the age of 50, and 51% next to a colleague over the age of 60.

Analysis showed that where restaurants have a diverse age range of people working a shift together, employees are up to 10% happier in their jobs and have a more positive outlook towards McDonald’s role in their developmental and career growth needs, as well as their overall wellbeing.

Our oldest employee, 91-year-old Bill Dudley is a war veteran and former taxi-driver. Bill’s a great role model for his younger colleagues. At the other end of the age spectrum, Charlie Mitchell is 17-years-old and works part time at our restaurant on Tavistock Road in Plymouth. He was looking for a job that could fit alongside his studying. As well as providing him with the flexibility to balance a job and academic work, being a McDonald’s crew member gave him the experience of working in a team and the confidence to take on some leadership responsibilities – equipping him with vital workplace skills for the future.

We also employ thousands of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, many of whom are working parents. Mums and dads love the flexible hours and the opportunity to balance childcare with a job where there’s no limit to progression. Clare Morgan has been with us for 30 years and has moved through the ranks from crew member to manager at our Chester restaurant. During her time with us, she has raised a family, and 21 years on, her daughter Eleanor is also part of the same restaurant team.

We know that our customers also value a restaurant experience provided by a mix of ages. An overwhelming majority of customers (84%) tell us that they like to see a range of ages in the restaurant team and most (60%) expect better service as a result.

As life expectancy continues to rise and increasing numbers of older people choose to work later in life, the potential for a multigenerational workforce becoming the norm across all sectors and industries presents a significant opportunity for UK plc.

To realise the potential, businesses must take an ‘age-nostic’ approach to recruitment, not immediately prioritising the brightest, most energetic candidates, but looking at their workforce as a diverse blend of personalities, experiences and backgrounds that reflects our vibrant society and the broad range of customers that businesses serve in today’s economy.

Claire Hall is senior vice president, chief people officer at McDonald’s UK