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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 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

What’s Age Got to Do with It?

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 the Gen Ys who are wondering what the hell I am talking about the Eagles were like the Matchbox Twenty of the 1970s. 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 bandmates (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 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 individuals in Australia for every person over 65 years; during the next 20 years it is estimated that the 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 Hamilton, James and Bruce, a well-known publicly listed recruitment company.

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 ejection, 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).

What’s age got to do with it? Well not much actually.

Age does not determine performance; skills, competencies, and motivation do.

My mother’s brother (also Ross) retired from teaching and took up selling real estate.  He had been a high school principal for some years in Hobart.

Uninspired by that profession, he retired again.

To save 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 on 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.

Related blogs  
Confronting ageism: The next recruiter challenge

The Skills Shortage (Part 3): Workers with a Disability



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