Sit Down Old People – I’d Hire You, But You’re Not “Digitally Native”….

Thoughts from the road.

Let’s talk about old people.  No BS, no talking around it, let’s just talk about old people in the workplace.
 
I’m coming off some leadership training with a client. Great people, and when I do that type of training I’m always reminded how most people who obtain any type of leadership position with a company (first-level managers and up) are talented and want to do great things.  
 
Here’s another observation. The older managers in my group this week were great.  They were engaged, thoughtful, talented – and among the people I would trust the most to try and put the conversation techniques we we teaching in play at their company.
 
So why don’t more companies want to employ older workers?  I’m convinced that this is probably THE undervalued sector in the employment marketplace right now.
 
Why is this on my mind?  Mainly due to this article I spotted on the road from Inc, detailing the new codewords tech companies are putting into job descriptions to try and eliminate older workers from consideration.  Take a look at this bull#### (Inc reporting is solid, so I’m talking about the subjects of the reporting):

People would be rightly shocked if a job description for a high-tech position said: “whites and South Asians only” or “women need not apply.” They’d be shocked not because racism and sexism aren’t rampant in these firms, but because the company would be explicitly acknowledging that the racism and the sexism exists.

However, whilst they’re sensitive about being outwardly racist and sexist, high tech firms are total fine with discriminating against one type of job candidate: anyone born before 1985. To express this, high-tech firms use the dog-whistle “digital native” which basically means “nobody older than 36 need apply.” Here’s an example from the Mountain View-based TapInfluence:

“As an Influencer Marketing Accounts Coordinator, you are an eager and ambitious can-do-er. You are bright, creative and won’t stop until both you and your customers (marketers and influencers) are successful. You are a digital native who loves everything about social media and who keeps up with all the rising social trends.” (Emphasis mine.)

The term “digital native” comes from a 2001 article suggesting that “children raised in a digital, media-saturated world require a media-rich learning environment to hold their attention.” Over time, this highly-questionable notion that millennials are particularly prone to ADD and ADHD has morphed into the even-more-questionable notion that millennials are better adapted to the digital world.

Digital native.  Nice. New buzzword for old.  It used to be “energy”, but everybody’s probably on to that, so we changed it. Everyone take a bite of the turd sandwich that phrase is. Also, the article points out that Facebook diversity statement includes consideration for every protected group under the sun except – you guessed it – old people:


High tech firms, though, have so thoroughly embraced this “digital native” junk science that many don’t even feel it necessary mention age in their pro-forma diversity statements. Like Facebook, for instance:

“As part of our dedication to the diversity of our workforce, Facebook is committed to Equal Employment Opportunity without regard for race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, protected veteran status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.”

So that quote is the diversity footer on Facebook’s posts on LinkedIn.  I’m not a big “let’s be politically correct” person, so I really don’t want to shame post on Facebook.
 
But **** it – shame on you Facebook.  You’ll include every other protected class but the old folks?  Damn.
 
Old folks use tech products.  Old folks also trend more politically conservative, so If I was Fox News, I’d do a segment claiming that political leaning is the real reason you don’t keep age top of mind as a protected class.  
 
But I’m not Fox News.  So I’ll assume the reason you don’t want old people is because you think they can’t hang.  A lot of times, you might be right.
 
But older workers are a value play in the talent marketplace right now.  If you’re looking for great talent, you might want to figure out a way to sort the player/non-player thing out across older workers.  I’d hire all of the older people I saw this week – without hesitation.  
 
Are they “digital native”?  I don’t know.  But if you’re discounting the whole class due to that factor, I’ve only got one thing to say:
 
Up yours. 
 
You’re wrong.  Run a ####ing algorithm to figure out which of the older folks can hang.  That’s what you do, right?  Use data to make smarter decisions?  Try that with older people and hire a few of them – the talented ones – and see what happens. 
 
I bet it’s positive.
 

This post originally appeared on The HR Capitalist
Author: Kris Dunn