McDonald’s: A Soft Touch
With some 850,000 Americans working at McDonald’s, the fast-food leader has a unique opportunity—some may even say responsibility—to take a proactive stance in building the pipeline of young employees. Nearly 60 percent of its workers are 16–24 years old, the youngest of which belong to Gen Z. These teens and young adults are just beginning to enter the workforce and remain something of an enigma to marketers and employers alike, but a recent survey conducted by McDonald’s sheds light on the up-and-coming generation. Released last summer, the Workforce Preparedness Study revealed a disconnect between the demand for employees with soft skills and the actual pool of viable candidates.
“Gen Z, our youngest workforce generation and the first born as digital natives, recognizes they lack the soft skills that are most critical to helping them grow early in their careers. Most importantly, Gen Zs acknowledge they need help getting these skills as they find themselves struggling to enter the workforce—and we can no longer continue to ignore the gap,” says Melissa Kersey, chief people officer for McDonald’s USA, via email. “For employers like McDonald’s, this is our chance to help these young people develop the skills they need in the future.”
To that end, the company has launched the Youth Opportunity program with the goal to help 2 million young people build soft skills and overcome the barriers to employment by 2025. McDonald’s is taking both a hyper-local and global approach. For example, in its hometown of Chicago, the brand is donating $1 million in grants to career training organizations, while in Europe its franchisees are working to offer 42,000 apprenticeships over the next six years.
McDonald’s has long positioned itself as a great first job, and Youth Opportunity takes that mantra a step further.
“Employers, especially those often providing someone with their first work experience, play a critical role in training and preparing young people for a successful future,” Kersey says. “Employers must think beyond just their company needs and focus on being a good corporate citizen. … Not only is this the right thing to do, [but also,] younger generations expect it.”
If recent developments are any indication, the Youth Opportunity program and its accompanying initiatives will continue to expand. In late October, McDonald’s kicked off the Where You Want to Be campaign, which introduces employees to the professional tools available on the company’s Archways to Opportunity education and career advising program.
“By offering restaurant employees more opportunities to further their education and pursue their career aspirations, we are helping them find their full potential, whether that’s at McDonald’s or elsewhere,” Kersey says.