Age in the digital age: Are younger bosses more connected?

Quips about fifty being the new forty aside, chronological age does appear to matter in the C-suite if one were to go by the thesis of a new article in the Wall Street Journal on Gen X moving into the corner office.  The report notes, perhaps a bit redundantly, that as "older baby boomers retire, more companies are turning to members of Gen X" who are "generally more tech savvy".  That has led to knock-on effects on how companies go about acquiring and retaining employees with online platforms transforming the way a bench of talent is created. That said, few would differ with the notion that, regardless of age, the digital era has brought about new and more apt ways of linking talent to jobs and careers.

McKinsey and Company thoroughly explores the preceding point in a report published in June of this year that laments the missed opportunities arising from a platform mismatch as labor markets haven't kept pace with rapid shifts in the marketplace. The consulting giant suggests that utilizing better platforms would not only result in higher productivity in companies of all sizes but also increase global GDP by the trillions, a welcome game-changer in an anemically growing world economy. A creative example of a digital platform is Austin Digital Jobs, a private Facebook based network that has an online and offline social component to job searches.

However, the Journal's claim that this new (younger) breed of CEOs  "spend more time wooing and keeping younger staffers, and worrying about how to keep products and services relevant for the rising millennials projected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025" ought to invite more scrutiny.  Apropos, that it is pertinent that a Harvard study from last year found that many tech company founders in their twenties and thirties ended up having presidents and CEOs in their forties either as a consequence of the founder staying on or bringing in more experienced talent.

Hotels, even luxury hotels,  have historically had general managers who are in their forties or early fifties given the path to the GM's office is on average about 15 years with employees in North America ascending to the top the fastest while those in Asia (China, India) taking the most time.  The statistics portal Statista.com has some interesting graphics and data on the average age of hospitality and tourism sector employees in the United Kingdom. Although, from four years ago, the data shows GMs on average are 49 years old, almost on par with tech companies in the US!

In the end,  the premise that younger C-suite occupants are better geared to drive profitability besides acquiring and retaining talent is perhaps not entirely on firm ground given the buying power and needs of baby-boomers. Too often hotel rooms designed by young, sometimes brash, designers end up with light switches that cannot be seen  or lettering on menus and instructions that require a combination of magnifying glasses and flashlights  resulting in missed opportunities at many levels.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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