Isn’t ageism inherently somewhat stupid if you want to make money?

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I started on this via this interview with Tom Peters:

What’s the definition of a millennial? A human being who has no money. What is the definition of old people? The people who have the money. My throwaway line is, “My people” — meaning old people — “my people don’t have the money. We have all the money.” And the amount of effort and attention that goes into marketing and product development for the over-50s is pathetically low.

Fucking a, Tom Peters! How sick a burn are those first two lines? DAMN!!!

OK, but seriously, this is true.

A 63 year-old tends to have more money than a 23 year-old. Just saying. They can buy stuff and make more decisions.

But we’re fucking obsessed with millennials, even if most everything we think about them is actually inaccurate.

What gives?

Youth is revered, age is not

That’s just a thing. People believe it. Youth are strong and virile and “the next generation.” Old people on the way out. Shouldn’t necessarily be how we think, but it is. Tad Friend hit the cover off the ball in a New Yorker article on ageism a few months back, basically arguing that Silicon Valley is making it worse. Now we deify the 22 year-old startup founder, not the 65 year-old who’s been growing profits for decades. Ya know? It’s stupid.

The paradox of how we hire

We hire almost entirely for pre-existing competence, i.e. bullet points of what you can do/the skills you have. We barely ever address if you can communicate, if you’re a total fucking asshole, etc, etc. Those things get left in the trash heap. I want to know where you have this coding language or you’ve used MailChimp. Got it.

Well, competence around skills tends to come with age. A 30 year-old who’s been using Pardot for eight years is better at it than a 22 year-old.

But companies love this “young tech talent” stuff.

Dirty little secret: what it actually means is “We can pay them less, right? Because they have less experience?”

Right. That’s what it means.

Think of another way companies leave money on the table

From that same Peters interview:

Women buy virtually everything — 80% of consumer goods. Over 50% of commercial goods. [Yet] most organizations still are at the level — particularly in the senior ranks — of 5%, 10% or 15% women. That is stupid.

That is stupid.

So… we ignore older people as both customers and employees, even though they have money (what we want from customers) and experience (what we want from employees). And we ignore women in leadership, even though no matter what you sell, you’re probably selling to women. Hmmm. That’s awkward.

The solution

  • Stop being obsessed with millennials
  • Target your marketing/sales efforts at who might actually gain value from what you do, not some generalized age bucket
  • Promote more women into leadership
  • Hire for soft skills
  • Build relationships
  • Make more money

I got out of this in under 500 words. Go forth and prosper.

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