The Trouble with Talent is…the question of age

Well, I’m really treading on thin ice here aren’t I? For the final article in my Trouble with Talent series, I’ve decided to tackle the very difficult subject of age. Can you be ‘Talent’ and over 55? Or is being deemed as ‘Talent’ just the preserve of the “up and coming” youngsters? Why is this subject such a Taboo? We are all, after all, getting older every day rather than younger, so why can we not just talk about this topic openly and rationally? Here, I attempt to do just that.

A significant proportion of the businesses that I co-own are in recruitment. Our teams are asked every hour of every day to find ‘Talent’. None of our customers would ever say they don’t want us to present any older candidates when presented with this ‘Talent’ brief, but, in reality, this is then where actions speak louder than words in terms of which candidates are interviewed and selected. Is the subject avoided because we are all afraid of being cast as ageist or being sued for breaching the Age Discrimination Act? Perhaps. Or do we carry an unconscious bias that Talented people are by definition: hungry; ambitious; on the way up and thus there is an invisible age line that is crossed after which they cease to be termed as Talent, but are instead: experienced; a safe pair of hands; a technical expert?

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