I’ve just finished reading a post on LinkedIn on missing old people in the workplace.
Tom Goodwin, EVP and Head of Innovation at Zenith Media, wrote, “Living in New York and working in advertising I rarely see people over the age of 50.” He bemoaned the current lack of gravitas, wisdom and real experience in today’s ad agencies, and added, “We’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to have someone in the room who objectively knows more.”
Goodwin’s headline caught my eye because the AV industry has convinced itself we have exactly the opposite problem — not nearly enough young people. And nobody seems to know why, despite all the cool technology we work with, recent graduates aren’t lining up at our doors begging for jobs.
Focus on Millennials in the Workplace
NSCA, in response, introduced its Ignite initiative to assist its members to “attract, engage and encourage students to join the commercial electronics systems industry.” And InfoComm launched the ICIF Grant Program, providing matching scholarships for companies offering student internship and mentoring programs.
Personally, I think both associations are barking up the wrong tree. Our problem isn’t too few young people. Our problem is too many old people, most of whom show no signs of heading for the doors anytime soon.
Why are there are so many old people in the workplace in AV? First and foremost, they all still need jobs. Nobody’s giving them a pension at age 55. Their children went to pricey colleges. Their parents have spent their inheritances. And they don’t know how to do anything else.
Second, their bosses are lazy, expedient and shortsighted. The AV industry only really hires to solve sales or production problems, and an old industry veteran — even one with known shortcomings — can fill any given hole much faster and easier than some kid off the street. “I don’t have time to train a designer. I’m too busy designing!”
The Problem with Old People in the Workplace
Some old people in the workplace are, of course, enormous assets to their employers. They are repositories of much collected wisdom and experience, excellent mentors, and have continuously evolved with the changing times and technologies.
We hate delegating because we hate trusting. And, most of all, we hate young people.
Other oldies are the walking dead. They’re on their eighth employer in the past 18 years. They quickly fill holes, but long-term they cost too much money for too little energy, enthusiasm and results. Many are “been there, done that, why bother” workers who horde good jobs other industries more wisely populate with much younger employees.
Worst of all are The Entitled — those old people who actively (or passive-aggressively) stand in the way of progress. Like hiring more young people.
We entitled oldies like our titles, our status and our “turf.” We like having our choice of accounts or project assignments. We like seeing old friends at conferences and shows. We like the old software systems and business processes we built back in the day. And we really like being unassailably and indispensably “in charge” of our little kingdoms.
The entitled hate teaching, because doing is faster and easier. We hate delegating because we hate trusting. And, most of all, we hate young people. Especially brilliant, ambitious, energetic, creative, tech-savvy young people who have amazing AV careers ahead of them.
Just like we did once.
Back in the day.
Brock McGinnis is sales manager, audio-visual solutions division, for Toronto-based Westbury National.
originally published April 7, 2017