McDonald’s teams with AARP on national campaign to recruit older workers

Photo: RetailWire
Apr 30, 2019

McDonald’s, which often promotes itself as “America’s best first job,” has formed a partnership with AARP to hire more workers over the age of 50.

As part of the partnership, AARP will feature McDonald’s employment postings its job board. The company will also work with AARP on a five-state pilot program to match low income American seniors with jobs.

The fast food giant has previously reached out to older workers through local campaigns, but this marks its first national effort. Forty percent of McDonald’s workforce are teens, while only 11 percent are over 50.

One reason McD’s is looking to hire older workers is because teenagers and students typically aren’t available or willing to work earlier shifts. The breakfast shift starts at 5:00 a.m.

Another driver is that unemployment remains at near all-time lows. Finally, with today’s elders living longer and generally staying healthier than past generations, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has named the 55-and-older population as the fastest-growing segment of the workforce since 1996. BLS projects those over 55 will represent 24.8 percent of the civilian workforce by 2024, up from just 12 percent two decades earlier. Many work to buffer their retirement savings.

For restaurants or stores, older workers can bring “soft” skills, such as experience in reacting to pressures, solving problems and collaborating with others. Older workers also tend to be more reliable and support a more diverse working environment. In McDonald’s statement, Susan Weinstock, AARP’s VP for Financial Resilience, cited the often surprise benefit of two-way mentoring, whereby both older and younger generations offer learnings for each other.

One risk of hiring older workers may be generational conflicts that can arise, including an uneasiness working under younger supervisors.

Hiring managers often have a conscious or unconscious bias toward older hires, as well. Studies regularly find rampant age discrimination across industries. In what many view as ageism, common stereotypes about older workers are that they are not adaptable, less tech-savvy and not trainable.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more pros than cons for retailers and food establishments in hiring a greater percentage of older workers? What are the best ways to address age biases, whether from younger or older employees?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Companies that respect age rather than dismiss it benefit from the wisdom and loyalty of these employees."
"For McDonald’s, who, at last check, had a target customer of 18 years old, this move seems kind of odd, even off-brand."
"Industries like tech “age out” employees and job applicants beginning at age 48. Now age 48 is the new 70-year-old in terms of hiring."

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18 Comments on "McDonald’s teams with AARP on national campaign to recruit older workers"

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Mark Ryski

I see more pros than cons in hiring mature workers. The fact is retailers and food establishments need employees to serve customers, but unfriendly working hours and relatively low pay have made it less attractive – especially in a market of such low unemployment.

Age biases, like any form of discrimination, is often about education and communication. Mature workers represent a large and viable source of reliable, conscientious workers who are not necessarily looking to climb corporate ladders. I think this is a wise move for McDonald’s and any other company exploring options with mature workers.

David Naumann
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
3 years 2 months ago

Recruiting older workers is a smart strategy for McDonald’s and other restaurants and retail brands. As the article discussed, there are a lot of gaps in staffing caused by low unemployment and hours that are hard to staff with younger workers. The potential pitfalls of conflicts of uneasiness of older workers reporting to younger workers should be minimal, as they should expect this when they are applying for the job.

There are a lot of older workers that want to supplement their income or they have a hard time finding employment. Restaurants and retail are good options.

Art Suriano

I see the pros outweighing the cons here. Older employees are better workers with experience and that’s the truth. Unfortunately, too many young people lack social skills and a strong work ethic which creates all kinds of problems. Many of them call out often or stop showing up for work. Moreover, with unemployment at an all-time low, these jobs need to be filled and filling them with older employees is wise. Hopefully, their stronger work ethic, people skills, and overall attitude will rub off on the younger employees.

We do need to find ways of solving the problem long term by motivating more youthful people to become good employees. Working at McDonald’s as well as other minimum wage jobs are entry-level positions that are designed to teach young employees the fundamentals of keeping and being successful at a job. This program is a good start in doing that.

Joan Treistman

Feeling relevant is an incredible self esteem booster. And I suspect that older workers will feel that boost working for McDonald’s. As companies acknowledge diversity in their training programs, they can include age (if they don’t yet) as part of the program. Millennials currently stand out as a major challenge for many employers. Now older workers can be part of the challenge. But then again creating a harmonious team is always a challenge.

I think this will be a great learning experience for all involved, the staff and management. Who knows? Harmony may become a universal achievement for McDonald’s and other retailers as all ages are brought together in one working environment.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

What took so long? It is telling that it took today’s low unemployment rates for employers to realize the value of “older” employees. That in itself is a sign of age bias. The best way to address age bias is the same way as addressing any other bias — treat people as individuals and value their contributions.

Lee Peterson
Age discrimination is a rampant issue for retailers right now, especially in apparel. I personally know several people whose positions have been “eliminated” and then subsequently someone younger takes over similar, if not the same tasks under a slightly different title. In a way, I get it; let’s get the boomers off the train and get some Digital Native thinking coursing through our retail/restaurant veins, but from another side, that’s a LOT of experience going out the door. Surely if it’s your goal to “youth up,” an advisory or transitional role seems more relevant and quite useful vs the old boot. For McDonald’s, who, at last check, had a target customer of 18 years old, this move seems kind of odd, even off-brand. Aka: PR stunt. Plus, the operations side of a QSR is all about speed, and hate to make a sweeping generalization, but that’s not really a senior’s forte. In a retailer’s HQ, it makes sense to me to have wiser folks around who have seen everything, but on the floor of a… Read more »
Tom Dougherty

Older workers generally represent a more stable employee base. But McDonald’s has spent a mint positioning itself as America’s best first job.

This initiative does not jive with the brand’s promise. It makes the whole “America’s best first job” campaign smack of marketing. As a result, McDonald’s looks insincere. They should have thought about this initiative earlier on.

Like many QSR restaurants, McDonald’s confuses a brand positioning with an advertising tag-line. Believability takes patience and clarity. Obviously McDonald’s lacks both.

Harley Feldman

There are more pros than cons for retailers and food establishments to hire older workers — work experiences, more dependability, and ability to work during day hours. There may be age biases, but these issues can be addressed through management training and group development sessions. McDonald’s must address the labor shortage in the US and hiring older workers is an excellent idea.

Georganne Bender
Here I go again… I remember my father, a brilliant businessman, saying to me later in his life, “Enjoy your career now, George. Once you hit my age your only option is to be greeter at Walmart.” So I am happy to see McDonald’s reaching out to AARP members. Still…. An uneasiness for older people working under younger supervisors? How about younger supervisors uneasy about working with older people? Yes, there is an age bias, and it kills me to read that people aged 50 – Gen X – are being thrown into this conversation, many of them still have kids at home. A 50 year old is at the peak of his/her career — I just read an article about Gen X employees being the most coveted in the workplace. People 50+ are smart, well-versed, educated, eloquent, take direction well, and are dependable workers. Companies that respect age rather than dismiss it benefit from the wisdom and loyalty of these employees. No doubt, McDonald’s will run a respectful campaign, I am tired of hearing… Read more »
Cynthia Holcomb

Industries like tech “age out” employees and job applicants beginning at age 48. Now age 48 is the new 70-year-old in terms of hiring. What a waste of both hard and soft skills needed in any business. A real shame. It all boils down to money and the relatively new workplace disrespect for those older than 48 years of age. Unfortunately, somehow over time society at large has deemed the only value left in hiring those who have reached the age of 50 + is to flip burgers for $12 bucks an hour. Somehow 50+ has become a dog whistle for incompetence in all aspects of any business role requiring intelligence or utilizing technology. The new “put out to pasture.” Life and karma have funny ways. Millennials will soon find out, “what goes around comes around.”

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

Good move by McDonalds’s. My mantra for hiring and engaging workers is that you need to FIRE them up. Find (F) them underscores the need to actively recruit employees. The AARP relationship is evidence of such pro-activity. Involve (I) them refers to the need to create a positive culture. In this case, potential age discrimination and differences between younger and older workers can be addressed by appropriate development programs. Reward (R) them is as it sounds. Finally, empower (E) them suggests using the life experiences dimension of older workers to delight McDonald’s customers.

George Anderson

McDonald’s must also be going for “the best last job” title with this approach. While I think many companies, particularly retailers, could benefit from putting older workers in customer-facing positions, I have lower expectations for foodservice jobs that are primarily based on speed.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

Reverse/two-way mentoring could possibly be the biggest benefit of having a diverse workforce.

Cathy Hotka

AARP has been placing older workers for years (they helped my dad spend 17 years post-retirement at EPA.) Older people crave personal connections and meaning in life, so this is a win-win for seniors and McDonald’s.

Rich Duprey

McDonald’s will run into problems with this campaign. There’s a reason working at the burger joint is considered a first job: wages earned there aren’t meant to support a household. Bringing in older workers to take these positions is going put additional, significant wage pressure on the business.

McDonald’s has also already earned a reputation as a sub-par employer for paying its workers “low wages” who need to support families and this won’t help. The Fight for $15 is already ruining job opportunities for teens; adding older workers will erode them further. Franchisees who will be the ones hiring most of them will see their profit margins dwindle even more from as older workers command the higher wage rates.

There’s also a deeper problem where “over-50” workers need to work at McDonald’s. This isn’t the elderly we’re talking about looking for a way to make themselves feel useful to society, but rather a decidedly younger cohort that absolutely should have graduated beyond flipping burgers by now.

Shep Hyken

Old does not mean incapable. On the contrary, an older worker with good experience and a good work ethic can be a great influence on a young first-timer. As far as age bias, the issue isn’t about age. It’s about hiring right. Young, old or in-between, if a person can physically and mentally do the job, represents the brand well and comes to work with the right attitude, there shouldn’t be an age bias.

Craig Sundstrom

Many of the responses here were curious, complaining of discrimination and stereotyping, then doing just that, offering up both positive (older workers are stable, reliable) and negative (younger workers are just the opposite). Suffice it to say there are good and bad workers in every age group, and so age, per se, is usually not the only relevant issue.

But some realities need to be faced as well: retail jobs — be they fast food or standing on the sales floor all day — are often fast moving or otherwise physically demanding, and while that may not be an issue @55, it might be @65 ( and more still @70); so simply looking at “older” as a monolith is misleading. As for McD’s, speaking (only) for myself, I find the thought of spending my golden years working there rather depressing … if more are like me, they may struggle in their recruiting efforts.

Ken Silay

The key word in this discussion is “worker.” Why do we focus on young or old? A business should be looking to engage people who are interested in working, improving the business they are working for and enjoying positive interactions with customers and fellow employees.

"Companies that respect age rather than dismiss it benefit from the wisdom and loyalty of these employees."
"For McDonald’s, who, at last check, had a target customer of 18 years old, this move seems kind of odd, even off-brand."
"Industries like tech “age out” employees and job applicants beginning at age 48. Now age 48 is the new 70-year-old in terms of hiring."

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