Can’t or Won’t. The Difference is Striking.

Good Afternoon Boomers.

Unemployment numbers remain high and there is little good news on the horizon.  This week’s business news  reminded us just how hard it is for the unemployed to get a new job as another employer was “outed” for eliminating all unemployed applicants from consideration.  Talk about kicking them when they are down.

In previous posts we wrote about the older worker and employer’s perceptions versus the reality.  We have debunked some of the more common misconceptions but the situation for many older unemployed workers is still very dismal.  Somehow we need to separate fact from perception for employers.  Yet we have little confidence in that approach since Boomers need jobs now and while some employers are hiring, some just aren’t hiring us.  We can change the situation but we will need to stick together to make them notice.  

We know why companies market to older buyers.  We spend more money per year on their goods and services than younger consumers.  Companies that market products and services to older buyers need workers to produce those products and provide those services.  They have made a commitment to produce and market products to us.  Shouldn’t they make a commitment to hire some of us too?   Too many employers fail to see a connection between older workers being able to earn a decent living and older buyers leading in annual purchases.  So in effect, they covet us in the Marketing Department while they disdain us in the HR Department. It is counterintuitive.  We need them to understand that it is also counterproductive.  

When a substantial number of the nearly 78 million Boomers aren’t working, they can’t spend as much on products or services.   The simple truth is that when they can’t hire us, we also can’t afford to buy their stuff.  We all understand a down economy and the pressures that puts on businesses.  We understand that cutbacks must be made and things grind to a halt before slowly improving.  Businesses also understand that unemployed workers can’t afford to buy as much stuff.  Hence the difficulty in coming out of an economic downturn.  But what happens when “can’t hire us ” turns to “won’t hire us”? 

The difference between “can’t” and “won’t” is striking.  If they won’t hire us, we still can’t afford to buy their stuff  but now it isn’t because times are bad and we don’t have any extra money to spend.  Now it’s because they have marginalized us due to our age and that won’t change as the economy gets better.  As each birthday passes, it will only get worse.  Maybe they haven’t realized that they are stifling their own growth when they dismiss the older worker as a viable choice of new employee.  Perhaps we need to help them see it. 

It is time to more closely align the perceptions about the value of older workers with the perceptions about the value of older consumers.  Let’s make the new sentence read, “If they will hire us we can continue to buy their stuff.”  “Will” and “can” sound so much more positive than can’t or won’t and they still get us to the core issue.   

Start asking questions of the companies whose products you purchase.  Check job boards that cater to older workers to see if they are listed.  Ask if they actively recruit older workers, ask where and how they do that, then check them out.    Check to see if the EEOC has begun proceedings against them for age discrimination.  Become an informed consumer in this area too.  We are already asking questions in other areas.  Are you green?  Do you use child labor?  Is your product energy-efficient?  Do you use recycled materials?  Free Range or stuffed into a cage?  Made larger by use of antibiotics or organic?  The list is endless as we demand greater accountability from those who produce the products we use.    Why not also hold them accountable in an area that impacts our ability to provide, to thrive, to have a good life? 

We may not be able to get the answers we seek, but once we start asking they’ll know we are watching and that they will be held accountable for their actions in the HR department.  When you find a company that is Boomer Friendly, share that information with us and we will let other Boomers know about them too so we can support those who support us. The bonus?  Boomer Friendly companies will grow and prosper.  They will hire more people and some of them will be Boomers.  It sounds so simple doesn’t it?

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