Too White and Too Young

Following the tremendous number of layoffs and job eliminations in 2020 I am seeing signs that companies in our industry are looking to add staff in 2021. Admittedly my evidence is anecdotal, largely based on what I see in my network and the comments of friends around the industry, but after the wreckage of 2020 I’m willing to run with any signs of hope.

If you’re a manager in the enviable position of having open head count to fill, here is some unsolicited advice: commit yourself to establishing a diversity practice for building your team.

I’ve written about diversity previously. In my view it is the number one challenge facing our industry today. The good news is it’s hard to find a company today that doesn’t list diversity as a core value. Yet there’s a big difference between valuing and practicing. One may value friendship but if they don’t practice being a good friend regularly by doing the things friends do, the value is nothing more than an empty platitude.

Establishing diversity as a practice means committing to ensuring the pipeline of candidates represents different races, genders, ethnicities and beliefs. Like any other practice, this work must occur regularly, even if you aren’t necessarily hiring at that moment. Being on the lookout for talent, seeking to broaden your network to include people who don’t look or think like you, must be consistent parts of any manager’s job.

The lack of racial diversity in our business is well chronicled and must be addressed by hiring managers at all levels in 2021 if we are finally going to move the needle. Yet there is another disturbing trend that seems to have accelerated during the pandemic that we must address as an industry: the perception that those over 50 no longer are worth the investment. Whether because of excessive focus on younger consumer demographics, a perception older workers aren’t hip to the new trends or just an attempt to cut expenses, there are too many experienced people being frozen out of opportunities.

Ageism, left unchecked, will do real damage to our industry. We rob ourselves of access to invaluable experience and ignore demographic trends which clearly show that consumers over 55+ will have incredible market power for decades to come. Not to mention it’s just another unacceptable form of dicrimination.

It would be a terrible shame for all leaders, and bad business, if we establish diverse hiring practices yet after building our teams we looked around the conference table and realized no one ever used a record player or a rotary phone.

4 thoughts on “Too White and Too Young

  1. Great article Fred. A lot of very important issues are front and center right now and getting much attention which is great news. Sadly, one huge issue that few are discussing is ageism. I think it has hit new heights because of the assumption that more senior employees are not going to be able to stay ahead of the technology’ curve. Blatant ageism is too often getting swept under the rug because companies are offering those getting discriminated against severance checks with the agreement of silence and no lawsuits. I hope that this issue can start making its’ way to the surface because like so many of the others issues getting attention right now, it is teal and prevalent. And what makes this discrimination unique is that it is happening to people of all races, genders, faiths, and sexual orientations.

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