Money tips: Facebook, mind the age gap!


Following a recent statement by Mark Zuckerberg, our money tips expert Dave Deruytter wonders what to do with your ‘older’ employee population.

The Facebook CEO is said to have told his Chief HR that Facebook has a big problem: its average employee age is 28 years old. Facebook should go out there and hire young people!

If the average employee age of a company is 28-years-old, then probably most of its employees are between 20 and 36 years old. That is also the typical age bracket for a professional top athlete, a soccer player for example. As not all professional soccer players find an interesting occupation after their soccer career, the same is probably true for a number of future ex-Facebook employees.

But things do not look that grim. Given that Facebook is still a leading digital high tech company, many old-school companies, wanting to embrace the digital revolution, will gladly take on a 36-year-old experienced ex-Facebooker. Furthermore, it is obvious that a good number of those ‘DIGIs’ will start their own company or join a young start-up with potential.

The quote, true or not, still raises eyebrows about potential age discrimination or diversity issues when applying such a strategy, and one wonders how companies will be able to manage their older workforce. Indeed high-tech companies are, often for good reasons, looking for bright very young guys and girls, while countries continue to increase their retirement age. Some countries are approaching, slowly but surely, the age of 70 for eligibility to take up one’s legal pension. That is around twice the age of a 36-year-old. Good luck with the next 34 years of your professional career and thank you for the 16 you spent with us. I agreed that ‘from cradle to grave’ employment with the same company is not all good. Still, it will take a very flexible mindset to cope with redundancy at the age of 36 because one is ‘too old’.

When looking at other top high-tech companies, Google (or Alphabet) has an average employee age of 30 and Apple 32. Not much better but still higher than at Facebook. The Alphabet (Google) figure may be influenced though by the age of Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman. Eric Schmidt is 61 years old today. To keep the Google average employee age at 30-years-old, he would not be compensated by an employee aged -1. A bit tricky at face value, but if you allow for a very open mind, maybe this is an opportunity for a new business segment in HR recruitment: high tech companies to pre-book as-yet-unborn children of bright people. Though not fully comparable, top soccer teams already sometimes ‘buy’ very young soccer players for their youth teams in the hope they will be the next Messi or Ronaldo at adult age. So it is maybe not that weird an idea after all.