Not long ago, on CNBC, I saw an interview with Robert (Bob) Benmosche, CEO of AIG, regarding the firm’s recent earnings and projections. My first impression, based not on what he was saying, but on his white hair and scruffy beard, was: “Wow, how audacious to have such a public persona – Isn’t he concerned about looking old?” Apparently, not and frankly, he doesn’t need to be concerned. (Make no mistake – These are my projections and issues.)
At 70, Bob Benmosche is a personal and professional success story, self realized and clearly secure with whom he is and how he looks. (BTW, I do think he looks cool!). He continues to have a distinguished career, being credited with saving AIG from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis; he is a former CEO of MetLife; just google him to see all of his achievements. He is also a cancer survivor and military veteran. He is rightfully recognized as a leader in the financial and business communities.
But in today’s American culture – Old is out – Young is the ‘bomb’. Looks matter and substance seems not to count for much. With Bob ‘strutting his stuff’ in the workplace, even though he is the boss – it sends a subtle and important message that older Americans are still here and matter.
Hiring managers and business leaders need to take note of this. Older Americans, not just chief executives, are important threads of the American fabric. Their experience and presence bridge the gap for younger generations. Each of us, hopefully, still have parents and grand parents alive today – these are our older Americans. Not only do they still need opportunities for professional engagement, they bring a rich assortment of capability, spirit and moxie.
By not exploiting this vast pool of talent, the potential for a serious set of future social problems grows. Without having more older Americans in the workforce, greater pressure on cash-flows intensifies and depletes retirement savings. What will America do when older Americans run out of money? Will their families be able to pick up the slack? Will government have sufficient resources to step in?
Looking to Washington, we see how challenged lawmakers are in getting anything accomplished. Washington has failed to embrace that the most important thing is JOBS. JOBS fix everything. People have cash-flow, which enables spending and investment and allows government to raise tax revenue for important services and functions.
The point here is that business should be doing more hiring, hiring faster and hiring more older Americans. People in their 50’s and 60’s should have more viable options other than to being quietly “eased” into early retirement. America needs to imagine the consequences of not providing more opportunities for those able and willing to work, particularly our older Americans.