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Richard Ciechan

In My Prime Ltd


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Blog: Does taking an inventory approach to human capital work?


Applying the 80/20 rule through taking an inventory approach to human capital means that organisational success probably depends disproportionately on a vital subset of employees.

That’s the premise adopted by an interesting article published recently in the US.  It maintains that applying the principles of inventory management can “retool” traditional HR numbers like turnover rates, hiring costs, and yield ratios to reveal opportunities to optimize the organisation and its people.
The article uses McDonalds as an example, quoting the, by now, familiar tale of how it invited a university study of the performance of 400 of its UK restaurants and found customer satisfaction levels to be 20% higher in outlets that employed kitchen staff and managers over age 60.
The result was attributed to the older workers’ additional experience, work ethic, and face-to-face customer relations skills, along with their influence on younger workers. The interesting aspect of this article is that it goes on to demonstrate that it’s not a simple matter of “more is better” in terms of older employees.
Apparently further analysis undertaken by McDonalds revealed that the positive effect peaks at about three older workers on a crew and levels off after that.
The article goes on to make the point that in inventory terms McDonalds should treat older workers differently from younger workers even if younger and older workers perform at the same level. It maintains that the inventory of older workers is “like the inventory of a rare and vital ingredient or product component, with the same management implications”.
It concludes: “Traditional employee turnover rates would show that vacancies can be filled more inexpensively and quickly using younger workers. That is the opposite of what inventory analysis reveals, because it misses the 80-20 principle. McDonald’s should manage its inventory of older workers with longer lead times, larger investments in recruitment, a higher tolerance for surpluses, and more urgency about shortages. Older workers in one store should be inventory for other stores, avoiding imbalances and keeping the numbers at about three per store”.
Food for thought?
Richard Ciechan is a director at In My Prime Ltd, which provides consultancy and training services for and about older workers.

One Response

  1. Lack of older employees a risk to McDonalds

    Hi Richard

    Excellent post. I’ve seen articles and insights from other companies (Tesco, B&Q for example) that have analysed customer satisfaction and found that having older employees on the tills or to offer advice invaluable. I think it comes down to valuing experience, as well as expedience: from personal experience, I always tend to pick the ‘older’ checkout person simply because I figure they are less likely to be a trainee or get something wrong leading to that horrible wait while an item gets checked (with a frustrated queue behind you) etc

    That might be discrimination on my part, but it’s hardwired in us to see and expect older heads to be wiser. If I want to know how to put up a shelf, I’ll ask my dad. If not, someone my dad’s age in a store rather than someone my age who will just shrug point me to aisle four and give me a leaflet.

    Once identified, the obvious next step here then is that of valuing the talent and using it (the human capital) in the best way. McDonald’s look like they have this nailed.

    The opposite may also be true of course. If I go into Apple, I’d expect the younger employees to know how things work faster and better than an older person. Again it might sound wrong, but is it? We make these judgements from experience. Businesses make them from experience too.




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Richard Ciechan


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