Ageism: Your Future In Pieces
Getting old sucks. My back hurts just writing that sentence. Anyway, author, speaker and all-around solid dude Vinay Singh believes work really sucks for the aging. He feels so strongly that he even wrote a book entitled, "YOUR FUTURE IN PIECES: The Brutal Truth: How Ageism & Income Inequality Are Destroying America." Sounds like the perfect topic for a podcast about all-things-employment, huh? Enter Chad & Cheese to get to the bottom of all this ... but not before a glass of prune juice, because staying regular at our age during an interview is paramount.
**This podcast was recorded a few short months before the COVID shit hit the fan. Needless to say, the Ageism conversation will have a much larger impact than we originally thought.
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Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.
Joel: All right, all right, all right. What's up everybody? You are listening to the Chad and Cheese Podcast, HR's most dangerous podcast. I'm your co-host Joel Cheesman.
Chad: And I am Chad, young at heart, Sowash.
Joel: Very nice. And today we are to meet, greet, Vinay Singh, the author of a new book entitled, Your Future In Pieces. Vinay, welcome to the podcast.
Vinay Singh: Thanks for having me guys.
Joel: You're an author. What else should we know about you?
Vinay Singh: I spent my entire career, 22 years and counting in talent acquisition and human capital business partnering with hundreds of companies. A lot of it was on the agency side, quite a bit of it was on the corporate side.
Chad: Excellent. So let's just jump right into this, right on the front of the book, it says, the subtitle, "The Brutal Truth: How Ageism And Income Inequality Are Destroying America." And then you take a look at the back of the book. Now I know why you look so pissed off on the picture, on the back of the book.
Joel: Are you an angry man Vinay?
Vinay Singh: No, not at all. I'm actually very funny and jovial.
Chad: Why the book then? Obviously ageism is happening, we know what's happening, but why the book? Obviously it's a much bigger issue than what we all think it is.
Vinay Singh: Absolutely. It really is. When I first started in talent acquisition recruiting back in the nineties, I was very surprised to see people coming to me at ages, mid to late fifties and highly accomplished. But because of M&A, which is obviously happening every single day, there's a new M&A. But these highly accomplished people simply couldn't get back into the market at a position where they were and sometimes even one step down. And I was surprised to see how long it took for these people to get on. And me being in recruiting, I mean, I was representing people of all ages and of all technical abilities. I was a technology recruiter and the speed of which people at a younger age were getting off the market was very, very quick. And it was progressively longer for older people, and honestly a number of people that I was representing never got on the market.
Chad: Is this a salary issue? I mean, because if you think about it, somebody obviously has more experience, they can ask more and if you are younger, and you're coming new into the market, you're more moldable, right? So it's kind of like can't teach old dog new tricks, not to mention that's an expensive dog, versus the new little puppy that you can train.
Vinay Singh: Yeah. So that can be something that a company may say, but working internally, I know it's actually not really the truth.
Vinay Singh: When companies, every quarter post profits for, per three month period in the billions, but then they want this experience, yeah?
Vinay Singh: On the job description, the person matches, but, yeah, you know that $5,000 we just can't make it. Yeah, we're a multinational, $75,000,000,000 company, but that 5,000 we can't do that, so
Chad: We can buy back stock, but we can't pay that extra $5,000.
Vinay Singh: ... Buyback stock, at last year to the tune of $1.2,000,000,000,000.
Vinay Singh: I'm sorry, 2018 to '19, yup?
Chad: '18 to '19. Wow, that's huge.
Vinay Singh: Yup. That's what they did with the tax plan.
Joel: So a little bit of devil's advocate, just coming out the gate, I'm an average person, in this example and I'm watching the democratic primaries, and I'm looking at the party of diversity and inclusion, and I'm looking at their first round of eliminations, more or less people of color go away, right? Black candidates, Asian candidates, the next round of eliminations, women are gone, a gay man is gone, a younger gay man has gone. And the two candidates fighting it out for the nomination are surprise, two old white dudes. So what do you tell someone that's just an average person on the street, that's looking at that and convince them that ageism is a problem, and if I combat with, isn't racism and sexism a bigger problem? How would you refute that?
Vinay Singh: So let me take the ageism and then I'll respond about the racism and sexism, yeah? So ageism, isn't it ironic that so many people in the workforce at ages 40, 45, 50 are told they are not qualified or they don't understand technology or they don't fit, yet the average CEO's age is 58. And so you can't really work in a company unless you're a CEO or if you're not in a company and you go into politics, you can't be in politics, you can't do a lot of things in corporate America, but you can either be the president of the United States or a CEO of a company. So really, how does that work out?
Chad: So you're saying it's fringe more than anything else?
Vinay Singh: It just doesn't make sense, does it? You can only have the highest jobs or nothing. So that's ironic. And now to answer the ethnic and the gender issue that you brought up. So this is the thing about ageism as this last frontier of ism, what it does, so to people, of women or minorities, people of color, it is exponentially exacerbated in ageism. So women that are older, get exponentially more discriminated against than men, yeah? And if you're a woman, who's a minority, X times even further. So I like to say it like this ageism doesn't care about color, gender, ethnicity, anything, doesn't see disability, doesn't see veterans, doesn't see anything. All you have to do is wake up and every day be a little bit older and slowly but surely ageism is coming for you. If you're healthy and you happen to get to an older age and are highly productive, it's coming for you. So if you're even a white man, it's coming for you. So if you happen to be a minority man, times it by two, and if you happen to be a woman, times it by three, and if you're a minority woman, times it by five.
Chad: So there's compound interest is what you're saying.
Vinay Singh: I wouldn't say it's interest.
Chad: Joel and I are both Xers. Are you an Xer? You've got to be an Xer. Okay. So here's the thing. And I know we're getting into that age now, but I think for years, we've always thought the boomers have had it so fucking easy, right? They had cheap college, they had great economies for the most part, right? And when we were in bad economies, they were in great places because they had about three fucking houses. So why are we feeling bad for these guys?
Joel: Don't forget free love.
Chad: Yeah, free love. Yeah. We had to worry about HIV.
SFX: Hell, yeah.
Chad: We had to worry about HIV and all that stuff. Couldn't get a shot for that. So why should we
Vinay Singh: Yeah, you're not kidding.
Chad: ... Why should we care about these guys having a hard time when they've had such an easy life as it is?
Vinay Singh: From a generational... So I'll group it into different generations. The boomers are on their way out of the workforce, but we are all living supposedly longer. And of course it's true compared to a half century. I mean, that's just true, overall, the statistics are there. But a perfect example is this, this is Q4 data from EPI. I'm a big fan of EPI, Economic Policy Institute, right? They're a very well known global institution. One out of five or 20% of baby boomers will have to work till the day they die, there is no retirement, there is no golden years. That's fact, it's not me, that's the real research. So I don't think when they were planning their retirement, they were looking forward to working at Walmart at 75 and going to some other part-time waffle house just to pay the bills and to keep their neck above water till, again, there is no goal, that's it, no retirement. That's what this American Dream was for them? No, of course not. This is the struggling dream, right? This is the reality of today. So there is that for the boomers. Now you mentioned Gen X, right? That's us, the three of us. Guess what? We're going to be moving into retirement in the next five years or so, right? Or some of us are already heading in there.
Chad: Yeah. Very doubtful.
Vinay Singh: Right, or I should say, let me take it back, retirement age.
Vinay Singh: But that's not going to happen, right? So we're going to help, in this number. So I just gave you one out of five or 20%. I say, it's going to get worse and we're going to move the basis point five to 25%, that's one out of four. When do we consider this an epidemic? One out of four Americans will not retire they'll work till the day the die, that will be happening in the not too distant future. I don't think it's going to get better there either, I think it's going to... The needle is going to keep on pushing closer to one out of three Americans, 33%.
Joel: We talk a lot on the show about the gig economy and gig economies tend to be marketplaces that are meritocracies, right? Do you really care that your Uber driver is 25 or 65? In most cases you probably don't. Is it your sense that a growing gig economy will help level the playing field or do you still see problems ahead for that as well?
Vinay Singh: Yeah. This gig economy is... And every 20 years, we just changed terms, terminologies. It's just a consulting economy that's what a gig worker is. So let's just look at what a gig worker gets. We see in the media, the gig economy gives freedom to people, people can set their own hours. How fun is that to know that you can be fired on any given hour of any given day? How great is it to wake up every morning and not wonder if you have, when you go into work, will you even have that job? How great is it to have no career ladder and no future prospect of where you're going? How great is it to not get a company bonus? How great is it not to get company benefits? All these things. I don't know anybody that's excited about not having those things. And in California, they're already constructing laws, that if you get hurt on the job, you can't sue. So I guess that goes into... And I'm not an expert in corporate legality and this kind of stuff. But I assume maybe that means you can't get workers comp. So where is the, all this wonderful stuff that we talk about for the gig worker? It doesn't really exist. Who does the gig economy benefit? It benefits shareholders and the executive class. If a company can hire 30% of their employees or their workforce, because gig worker is not an employee, if 30% of their work productivity is coming from a gig employee, well, they don't have to pay those people benefits, that's a huge savings. Where does that money go? I don't know.
Vinay Singh: Shareholders and executive class? Sure, why not?
Joel: We also talk a lot on the show about automation and how robots are going to put all of us out of work anyway. So what are your thoughts on automation and aren't we all really screwed anyway, no matter our age?
Vinay Singh: But we're so, so excited to implement AI technology into HR or TA and into marketing and everything else, right? We're all so enthusiastic to see the elimination of our future careers or at least that's what it's touted, right? How excited we're all are about AI and tech which will eliminate our jobs. So there's that, but if there are better jobs, which is the counter to that, right? The menial jobs, the jobs that have minimal, tasks that are repetitive and redundant, right? If those things go into automation and that frees people up to be more creative, then that would be a good thing. But that in turn requires probably more education and more reskilling, but are companies putting that money into reskilling, which brings me back to ageism, then why are people fearing for their careers at ages 35 in San Francisco, believe it or not, and 40 in New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, et cetera, et cetra? And that's really where ageism is happening, 66% of not blue collar, or coal miner, or a rust belt. I'm saying 40 to 66% of people ages 40 to 45 in white collar IT jobs fear for their career, jumps to over 90% at age 50. So this is a whole group of qualified workforce that has already proven to be productive, but we're not reskilling them. So then what are we doing? Why are we creating this ageless culture and making it harder for these people to either retain their jobs or move up?
Chad: And I think you're right as you grow older, it becomes a bigger problem. Companies don't want to put money into reskilling, they don't want to put money into wages. They don't want to put money into the areas in which they actually grow their company. They grow their company off their employees. The employees make products, the employees provide the services. The individuals at the top, the CEO is getting paid 1500 times that of the person actually doing the hard work, we have a fundamental issue in understanding how our system should work, capitalism combined with some type of redistribution of prosperity, whether it's wealth, whether whatever it is, our middleclass is getting fucked. And in this whole conversation, the individuals who are in the middle-class are older for the most part, so therefore they're definitely going to be in the higher realm of getting fucked. So, I mean, this is a hard question to answer because there are so many fucked up problems in our economy and the way that our government deals with corporate America today, right?
Vinay Singh: Well, so you've mentioned two things. So from an ageist culture, you had said, "We're getting older and this is happening." But here's the kicker, we're making... Ageism is creeping younger and younger and younger, ageism was happening 20, 30 years ago when you were in your fifties. Now it's permeating the age 35 and up class. So we're telling people in San Francisco get out of the way you're too old at 35. So that's what I'm trying to say, it's so counterproductive to just human life and the ability to generate equity, A. But what are we doing when we're telling people you're no longer relevant at ages 35 and 40, that's not old, that's prime. So it's a perversion. That's what ageism and ageist culture is, it's perverted. So that's what I wanted to say about, ageism is not just about older people. It's quite frankly, we're creating people that are younger and making them deemed as older when they're not. So there's that. And I think that is a huge problem and that is a corporate culture problem, and it is also a social problem. And when you combine these two together, I mean, that's, we get all our... We go to work, we spend at least a third, if not a lot more of our lives at work. And then when we're not, we're living in our social lives. So this is the kind of stuff, you turn on TV and I mean, I see some of the most popular talk show hosts say about themselves. I literally just saw Trevor Noah yesterday, he was talking to one of the people on the staff that comes in as that side component, the person was younger, I forget the person's name, but he said, "I'm not old," Trevor Noah's saying that. How's Trevor Noah old? Right? But he's saying it, I think to somebody that must be... Well, clearly, he's younger, but it's perverted culture and it doesn't benefit the vast majority of society, hence the reason why the middle class is slowly being deteriorated. And quite frankly, what this is doing overall to the country is it's actually imploding our country because if the majority of Americans cannot spend, then GDP does not grow. So this backfires on the United States of America,
Chad: We're Xers and we grew up with Gordon Gekko and Greed Is Good. And that's really a mantra that we've really embraced. I think in our country right now, I think is really providing this mechanism for implosion. I mean, don't you? How is this happening? How's the ageism piece, whether it's salary benefits, whatever it might be, how does that fit all into how we've lived our last 30 years of our lives?
Vinay Singh: You're right. I mean, it's funny that you mentioned Gordon Gecko, right? That might be the beginning of how the boomers took it and ran, and Gen X grabbed it and ran and et cetera, et cetera. So it has been happening. It's not just a new thing, yeah? It's been happening for a while and I guess, I'll just throw out some statistics, we're heading towards the 50 year mark where, there was a point in the seventies where things actually just turned and the CEO class was exponentially getting more of an increase and compensation, while the bottom multiple classes saw little to nothing. And so year over year, excuse me, adjusted for inflation. It's about 0.2% for the last 40 to 50, somewhere in there, 45 years. While at the same time, the CEO class has seen their gains go to about 937%. That was the last statistics I saw. It's not 2020 stats, but 2018 to 2019 stats. So this has been happening for a while, but it's now exponentially increasing more and more and more. And here's the thing. The CEO compensation is really not validated, they are not. There's no performance components that say, "If a CEO hits X, X, X, X targets, they get this money," like maybe a sports player or the majority of workers do, you've got to produce That Isn't really the case when it comes to the CEO class, their compensation isn't tied to performance. So that also is why that's perverted too.
Joel: Where are you on in terms of education? I mean, obviously the traditional route is you go to college for four years. If you want a little advancement, you get a master's and the wheel keeps rolling. But today we see more and more about continuing the education, learning new skills, whether it's on a site like Udemy, or Lynda ,or wherever online that you learn new skills. Do we need to go to college like we always have? Is your viewpoint on that changed? Does this get solved by continuing to educate yourself and getting new skills?
Vinay Singh: So, Joel, that was... I'm really glad that you asked that. And Chad had mentioned earlier, right? We're not reskilling, but yet when you hear CEOs come out, they're like, "Well, we're investing in reskilling our population or our organizational employees," but are they? And I don't think so, or not to the degree. Because if they were, we wouldn't see so many people being let go, especially with their talent, they have solid talent. So reskilling doesn't seem to be a priority truly within organizations. Although, we're in the talent and HR, human capital space, all three of us, we hear reskilling is a major thing that is a top priority, yeah? We hear about it, it's a big push, it's a big agenda, it's a top of mind thing, but is it where you go? And so when you... I can tell you this, countless candidates have come to me when let go and I do tell them to reskill, because it can help and it does. If there's 10 resumes and this one or two candidates happen to have just done a graduate certificate in AI for Business Leaders, from, I don't know, Harvard or MIT, that might be the thing that pushes them over out of that group. But I will tell you this, two things are happening, and they are very counterproductive. Talent acquisition and HR do not present to candidates with a higher education as something that is that much more important when it should be. Because the ability to think outside the box creatively, like Mark Cuban and Elon Musk says, "The greatest skills are in creativity and to be able to think outside the box," yet we're not doing that, we don't promote that. A number of major corporations, the household names have actually said in the last 12 to 24 months, they're thinking of taking the lower level opportunities and taking the bachelor's degree criteria off. What does that do? People are like, "Yeah, that's great." Is it? Because if you don't have that and you get the job, chances are you might not go to school while you're working. That's a tough thing to do. I did it once, I don't want to do it again, work full-time, go to school full-time, brutal, but it can be done. But how many people do it? Not a lot of people do that. So if you get the job and you don't have that bachelor's degree, oh, guess what? You're not going to be able to move up. Ooh, that hurts when you want to come and go to your boss for a salary raise or apply for the next job, who's going to get those jobs? It won't be the Americans, it'll be foreigners. So we backfire on education. We don't promote education and put it on a pedestal, when it is all so critical and has been for centuries, millennials. And we all know today, or we should know that what we know has a half-life of about, depending on who you talk to, something like 18 months, and then it's no good. So reskilling, critical, education, critical, thinking outside the box, critical, being able to take degrees at a master's level for mental... Just to be able to feed your brain in multiple different ways to think critically outside the box, as the great billionaires that we do promote and put on a pedestal, say that we need, but we're not doing it. Who's doing it? There's a many other countries that are doing that. I mean, just look, you can Google it all day long, where we stand on education, right? Statistically, we're trending at the bottom in multiple areas, especially STEM. That's where we're at.
Joel: Vinay, well, before I jump off the ledge here, we appreciate your time and coming on the show, as I age more and more with each passing second. For our listeners who want to know more about you or read the book, where should they go?
Vinay Singh: So the book is available on Amazon and my website is, risingmiddleclass.com, and they can find me on LinkedIn too.
Joel: Thanks Vinay.
Vinay Singh: Thanks guys.
Joel: We out.
Chad: We out.
Vinay Singh: See you.