Is McDonald’s Moving To Attract Millennial Talent?
In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on office perks. Companies like Google are famous for their unique perks, including nap pods, free food, and even free laundry rooms. And it’s not just Silicon Valley. Power Design, an electrical contracting company headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL, offers a 24/7 fitness center and a car wash.
This emphasis on the reimagined office space and culture seems to be a common perception among tech companies, startups and small businesses looking to attract a millennial workforce. Yet traditional American companies, ones that have been around for generations, are mostly not included in the list of places with the best office setup. Can these companies make the necessary changes to attract younger talent? Would a company with over $25 billion in revenue and over 420,000 employees move to a new home office just in order to have a better, more attractive HQ?
The answer is yes, and that company is McDonald’s.
Innovation From The Golden Arches
McDonald’s restaurants are a staple of the American landscape. In most regions of the country, it is difficult to drive more than 15 minutes without seeing the famous Golden Arches. For anyone who has traveled internationally, you know the double take of familiarity of seeing the big yellow M lit up in a foreign country.
Many millennials likely worked at a local McDonald’s during high school or college. It can be an easy first job. But after college, the fast-food giant’s home office is probably not the first place that millennials would think to send their resume. But that may change. Why? Because McDonald’s recently announced that it is moving back to downtown Chicago for the first time in over 40 years.
In a post on their website, McDonald’s outlined their plans to relocate back to urban Chicago by 2018. The new headquarters will be a freshly renovated version of the old studios where Oprah once filmed her talk show. The reason behind the move is pretty simple: McDonald’s is looking to attract younger employees. Millennials, as has been well-documented, place a high value on the location and physical space of their workplace.
That’s why they are planning to “transform the space into a modern setting that fosters collaboration and connectivity.” In other words, they want an office space that will draw younger talent to the burger giant. They realize that a great space is the best to make sure “great talent is excited about where they work.”
You can learn a company’s motivations by their history of decision making, and McDonald’s actually does have a history of designing their headquarters to maximize productivity and collaboration. The company began in an office in downtown Chicago in 1955, and moved to their current office in 1972.
Laying A Foundation Before Millennials Were Born
Why did they move to Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb, nearly 45 years ago? A 1972 article in the Chicago Tribune gives us some insight. In the early 1970s, McDonald’s saw the need to make a change in their corporate office. Their restaurants were increasingly popular in the rapidly growing suburbs across the country. In order to better serve their customer, they decide to create a space in the area where their customers lived.
They settled on a new site and had an architect design a modern workplace. Reading the article today is like a time machine, because it discusses the inclusion of a waterbed and hi-fi system. Neither of these items are used in today’s modern workplace, yet in 1972 they were used to improve collaboration and creativity.
So why make all of these changes? As the article states “The layout makes for an engaging atmosphere, open and egalitarian.” In other words, they intentionally designed a space for their employees to be able to produce their best work.
Why 1972 Matters Today
When it comes to McDonald’s relocating to the increasingly popular neighborhood of West Loop in urban Chicago, history tells us that their motivation is employee-centric. This is not the first time that they have made a change to help employees work better, and it likely won’t be the last.
There is a distinct trend of corporations relocating from the ‘burbs to the city center. In 2013 Zappos shifted its headquarters from Henderson, NV, to the old City Hall in downtown Las Vegas. That same year biopharmaceutical maker Biogen returned to Cambridge, MA, where it was founded in 1978, from Weston about 15 miles away. In 2010 Rock Ventures , which owns Quicken Loans among other business, moved from suburban office parks to downtown Detroit.
Although tax incentives and lower-cost real estate cannot be discounted, the younger demographic of the workforce are attracted to a metropolitan vibe. And companies like McDonald’s MCD -0.08% have taken note. According to a 2014 Nielsen study:
Sixty-two percent indicate they prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants and offices. They are currently living in these urban areas at a higher rate than any other generation, and 40% say they would like to live in an urban area in the future. As a result, for the first time since the 1920s growth in U.S. cities outpaces growth outside of them.
Moving from the right city to the right space
What can you learn from this change? The right space positively impacts clarity, creativity, and collaboration.
Many companies incorrectly think that improving engagement and collaboration only involves a ping pong table or espresso machine. Instead of intentionally designing a space that fits the company vision and culture, they make surface level changes.
While you may not have a vote in how the office is designed, think about the areas where you work. How can you maximize your desk or office to work better? If you lead a team, how can you improve the physical space where team meetings are held? How can you encourage your team to better design their work spaces to get more done?
When things are well designed, they support the work you are doing. If not, then they become a distraction. Make time to think through a better way to design your space.