I recently reconnected with a former colleague of mine who’s a 30 plus year retail leadership guy. He called me for some HR advice because he couldn’t understand why he hasn’t been more marketable during his recent career search. After asking him a few questions, it quickly came to me why more tenured and valuably experienced talent is being overlooked. There seems to be a perception that if you’re tenured or “older” you’re not in tune with the latest and greatest digital times; you’re an “old dog” who hasn’t learned or embraced the “new tricks”.
Savvy leaders in today’s digital world know how important it is to stay sharp and current and they seek talent that reflects the same. It’s my opinion that maybe some of our more tenured talent lags behind because employer’s lack strategy and intention for ensuring they grow along with technology growth. If it’s part of business, expect it. But, also provide the tools, resources or education to make sure it can be acquired. Younger talent, GenX or Millennial for example, gain many of these skills through college or regular use of technology, both socially and professionally. They have grown up in a digital age vs a pre-digital era. Internationally acclaimed educator, Marc Prensky, labels these groups as “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” (Digital Native). Prensky goes on to say, ‘Smart adult immigrants (aka baby boomers) will accept that they don’t know about their new world and take advantage of their kids and younger adults to help them learn and integrate. Not-so-smart (or not-so-flexible) immigrants will spend most of their time grousing about how good things were in the “old country.’
Circling back to my original thought, it’s critically important that we retain the many years of core experience and intelligence of the “old dogs”. More and more people are working well past the traditional retirement age and wouldn’t it be a wonderful world to have BOTH, their experience and knowledge as well as their ability to effectively navigate the digital world? That said, as employers and a society, let’s not overlook this very talented segment of our workforce by claiming they don’t have the digital savvy required to excel. Maybe they just don’t know and it’s our job to communicate and educate. Likewise, the “old dogs” need to genuinely embrace the change and understand it’s importance to compete. In a recent Huffington Post article, Older Job-Seeker? Here’s How To Overcome Your Three Biggest Roadblocks!, Roadblock #1 is, you guessed it, Technology. It specifically addresses how older applicants are eliminated on the spot due to the perception that their technology skills are outdated or non-existent, unless said applicants make it point to not to fall into this category.
So until the zombie apocalypse destroys technology as we know it, there’s a glaring opportunity to bridge this important gap. I’m in!
Disclaimer: So not to stereotype or offend, I’m fully aware that there are many “old dogs” who are as digitally savvy as the “pups”.