What’s age got to do with it?

     

The Rolling Stones, led by
71 year old Mick Jagger are arriving in Australia next month for a
series of concerts. Seventy three year old Bob Dylan completed another
Australian leg of his Never Ending Tour two months’ ago. The Eagles, led
by 67 year old Don Henley and 65 year old Glenn Frey tour Australia next
February. Inspired by the longevity of these rock ‘n’ roll legends, and
the upcoming seven year anniversary of the Eagles last album The Long
Road Out of Eden, I have reproduced a blog from one of the very earliest
editions on Insight.     

 
The
following article was originally published in InSight Issue #6 on 1
November 2007

 

Monday marked a significant day in my life as a music
fan – the Eagles released their first album in 28 years of all new
studio material, titled  “Long Road Out of Eden”.  For you
Gen Y’s who are wondering what the hell I am talking about the Eagles
were like the Matchbox Twenty of the 1970’s. In other words the critics
sneered at them while the radio programmers, music retailers and fans
couldn’t get enough of them. From all the reports the album is worth the
wait and promises to be right up there with Hotel California, their
acknowledged 1976 masterpiece of superb harmonies and biting social
commentary on the excesses of the Southern Californian lifestyle.

 
What’s this got to do with recruitment I hear you
ask?

 
Well a lot, actually.

 
You see Eagles co-founder Don Henley turned 60 a
couple of months ago. His three band mates (Glenn Frey, Timothy B.
Schmit & Joe Walsh) will join him in their seventh decade within months.

 
Do you think Eagles fans and music lovers alike will
decide to not purchase this album because of the age of the Don, Glenn,
Timothy and Joe? I very much doubt it. They will make their buying
decision on whether the collection of songs appeals to them as value for
money and worth their time listening to.

 
If Don, Glenn et al, were out in the job market I
doubt they would get the same chance to prove themselves to an employer
as they are now getting with the music buying public.

 
Consider the following extract from a 2004 IBM
Business Consulting report:

 
“Australia faces a potential workforce crisis. As
its workforce ages a relatively low number of workers are choosing to
remain in the workforce. By 2016 the number of individuals is expected
to almost double. Meanwhile the country has one of the lowest workforce
participation rates in the developed world with just 49% of Australians
between 55-64 years of age working today compared to 59% in the US, 60%
in New Zealand and up to 65% in Scandinavia. Today there are
approximately 6 working individual in Australia for every person over 65
years; during the next 20 years it is estimated that ratio will be
reduced to 3:1.”

 
Australia has an unenviable record with respect to
its treatment of older workforce participants.

I got my first taste of it when I was looking for
another job in 2002. I went to see a rec-to-rec who said he would put me
forward to a well known publicly listed recruitment company (name
withheld to protect the guilty).

 
The recruiter put me forward as a GM for a role that
they had open in Melbourne; a role that I was well suited to. When the
company declined to interview me I was surprised and when I asked what
reason was given for the rejection, the slightly sheepish response from
the recruiter was“well they just thought you were a bit old for their
culture”
. I was two months short of my 36th birthday!

 
To say that I was gob-smacked would be an
understatement. To not even interview me and make such a statement,
defied belief (assuming that the recruiter was telling me the truth, and
I have no reason to doubt him).

 
That’s age got to do with it? Well not much actually.
Age does not drive performance, competencies and motivation do.

 
My mother’s brother (also Ross) retired from teaching
and took up selling real estate.  He had been a headmaster for some
years in Hobart. Uninspired by that profession, he retired again.
Driving my auntie crazy around the house, he took up work again, this
time as a taxi driver. He’s been doing it for a couple of years and has
a new lease of life. He is a fluent German and French speaker, so he
loves the opportunity to converse with any like-speaking tourists (good
for tips!).

 
Clearly, age is irrelevant to Ross’s performance as
he has the competencies and motivation to perform his work to a high
level of effectiveness.

 

I can only hope that every copy of “Last Road Out of Eden”
that ends up in the iPod or CD player of an Australian employer is a
reminder to them that the competency and motivation of the Eagles is
what counts in creating music for their listening pleasure – age has
nothing to do with it.  

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