Skip to comments.McDonald's Faces Teen Labor Shortage ("fewer teenagers working period")
Posted on 07/23/2007 5:02:41 PM PDT by fight_truth_decay
A new McDonald's Corp. commercial tells the story of Karen King, who began her career as a teenage crew member in the 1970s and rose to head the company's $10-billion Eastern-U.S. division.
The spots are meant to resonate with American teenagers, who are leaving the workforce in droves and leaving McDonald's with a labor crunch that threatens to take a bite out of its surging sales.
"It's a shrinking labor market, and we recognize less people will be available to hire," Ms. King says.
The declining number of teenage job-seekers presents a super-size challenge for McDonald's, where 40% of the top 50 managers including CEO James Skinner worked their way up from the cash register or fry vat, and which more than ever needs qualified workers to keep service from bogging down in an era of computerized cash registers and electronic ovens.
"There is a direct correlation between the quality of the crew and sales restaurants do," says Steve Bigari, a former McDonald's franchisee who now works with fast-food companies on labor issues.
With the number of teenage applicants dwindling, McDonald's has rolled out a new commercial emphasizing the opportunity for advancement at the company. For more photos visit McJobsChicagoBusines.
For years, McDonald's has manned its crews largely with teenagers. In the 1990s, 45% of its U.S. employees were under 20. Today it's 33% of the workforce, which totals 650,000 employees.
GETTING HARDER OUT THERE
It's not just that fewer teenagers are working at McDonald's fewer are working, period. Last year about 44% of American teens held jobs, down from nearly 60% in 1982. The reason isn't clear, but many attribute the shift to an intensified focus on academics and after-school activities.
Whatever the explanation, the trend scares fast-food operators. "Everyone I talk to in the industry says it's becoming harder and harder to maintain their operations standards given what is happening in the workforce," Mr. Bigari says.
About half the employees in the fast-food industry are between 16 and 25 years old. The number of jobs in the industry is expected to increase about 17% in the next decade while the number of workers in that key age group is expected to increase 0.3%.
McDonald's is trying to get ahead of the coming squeeze with its aggressive new recruiting campaign, launched in May and driven by the TV ads featuring Ms. King. The company also revamped the recruiting portion of its Web site to facilitate online job applications, which are routed to franchisees, who hire the bulk of McDonald's front-line workers.
Lurking behind the recruiting drive is another reality: McDonald's could ease its labor crunch by raising wages. But that's a last resort for the franchisees. Increased payroll costs come directly out of their pockets.
Steve Russell, McDonald's U.S. senior vice-president of human resources and chief people officer, says the company doesn't feel pressure to raise wages, which vary by restaurant but average about $7.35 an hour, 26% over the current federal minimum wage of $5.85.
TOUCH SCREENS AND NEW MENUS
At the same time it expands recruiting efforts, McDonald's is trying to be more selective about its hires. About half of its stores require applicants to take a short test designed to measure their experience and behavior patterns. Mr. Russell says the number of stores utilizing the test quadrupled last year and the company continues to "rapidly deploy it."
The increased scrutiny matches the rising sophistication of fast-food jobs. Burgers are no longer flipped on a griddle but cooked in an oven operated by an electronic timer. New menu items have forced kitchen staff to master new preparation techniques and have given order-takers more buttons to locate on cash registers with touch screens easy to use but often intimidating to workers uncomfortable with technology.
Fumbles with the equipment slow down order times a big turnoff for customers looking for a quick meal. That's why it's critical to find, and keep, qualified workers. An internal McDonald's study shows stores with higher-performing crews reduce turnover by 30% and increase sales by $200,000 annually.
"Now more than ever, we realize our people are the main drivers of our business," Mr. Russell says.
This week in Las Vegas, McDonald's is holding a meeting of 15,000 managers at which employment will be a primary topic of discussion.
Industry observers say McDonald's has done more than any of its national competitors to promote employment, even while it may pay lower wages than some regional and national chains, such as coffee giant Starbucks Corp.
The effort may be paying off. Last year, according to Mr. Russell, McDonald's reduced its turnover by 9%, matching the chain's increase in sales, which hit $21.6 billion. The company won't disclose its retention rate; the industry averages about 150% annual employee turnover.
But it remains to be seen how McDonald's will replace the teenagers who continue to drop out of the workforce.
"There is not a readily available supply of teenage workers lined up at the door begging for jobs," says Joni Doolin, founder of People Report, a Texas-based company that tracks employment data. "And the problem is not going away anytime soon."
The solution is to send the tourists back home. They've had their fun. Now it's time to get outta' our face.
Mike Nifong is available.
And the other half are above 25...
I'm sure there's a growing trend that older lower skilled workers are attracted to the higher pay that McD's offers compared to other vocations.
We have a lot of undocumented tourists here as well.. and they are not teen agers working the Mc Donalds... lots look like in their 30’s or over.. career employees...
i’ve noticed less teens working for several decades in socal.
once asian immigrant families get their businesses going they want their kids on the education job all day.
generally, as people become more wealthy they don’t expect their kids to work.
as bill handel of radio kfi am 640 famously said: “my kids are not flipping burgers!”
It must of been cold inside the restaurant when they took this picture.
Well if you make 10 BILLION dollars on your Eastern-U.S. division alone maybe you should pay the help more and you might not have such a shortage !!!
I walked into a McD’s in Lower Manhattan a couple of months ago. One of my studetns was mopping in the back and spotted me. I later found out that 5 or 6 guys from my high school work there at some time during the week, and they’re all proud of that fact. A couple of them graduated last month. Good luck to them.
(BTW: I worked at Blockbuster instead).
That's half the problem, the other half is the abundance of cheap (in some people's viewpoints) companies eager to do what should be chores for a child. If you have a gardener who does your lawn care, why should a young pre-teen or teen be encouraged to get out a lawnmower and do it, vs having neighborhood teens do it in the first place, and your teen eager to get in on the racket of an extra $100 bucks a month in pocket.
Parents, go make the kids do something, else don't come back and complain when they're 25 and still living at home.
Oh PUH-LEEZE! If I would have let the bruthas intimidate me when I worked a graveyard shift job at a hotel in Chicago while in Grad School, I would have had ZERO respect for yourself.
Any moron who feels "intimidated" by the "other" squats when they pee...
Here in New York city, I use to work at Nathans after school in the mid to late `70`s and would go home with $40 a week which was like gold to me as before that I had a paper route delivering Penny Savers every Saturday which netted me a huge lump sum check of $20 at the end of the month! Wooo! To this day I remember my mother flipping out because I took my brother to a local carnival and we blew the whole $20 throwing balls at cans, shooting paper ducks just to win anything, which we eventually did which was a Rod Stewart poster even though we had no idea who Rod Stewart was.
I know for my extended family for the kids there is little point working at a place like McDonalds. They do like 4 hour shifts, paying maybe 6 dollars an hour. That is all of 24$.. then minus off transport expenses and other expenses related to work.
Its better imo to volunteer even for something related to the career they are working towards. Either a highly specialized trade or a profession depending on the aptitude and interests of the kid.
The early shortages we have seen so far though are nothing compared to what is going to happen when the baby boom retires from the good government and corporate jobs. That will open up countless good jobs for the young. Wages are going to rocket ship upwards.
Yep, you’ve nailed it. Today’s parents seem to be afraid to make their kids work. They are afraid to say no to their kids in general. They buy their kids new cars and expensive electronics without batting an eye. Lots of kids don’t even have household chores that they have to do.
As soon as I turned 15, my mom marched me down to the local Wendy’s and had me apply for a job. After working there for a year, I got a job at McD’s. There was no shame in it at all. It made us feel like we were growing up to have jobs and earn some money.
I worked since I was 16 but never in fast food. Ugly uniforms and it just had an embarrassing connotation. I worked on a buffet and washed dishes instead.
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