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Transcript: The Culture of Ageism (EP71)


Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.

Voiceover: To all of our loyal listeners, The Culture of Things podcast will now also have specific episodes produced for YouTube. To ensure you don’t miss out on this exclusive YouTube content, head on over to YouTube, click the subscribe button and hit the notification bell. Now, let’s get into the episode...

Brendan: Hello and welcome to The Culture of Things podcast. I’m your host, Brendan Rogers. Today, this is episode 71. Today, I'm talking with Toby Marshall.

Toby is the founder of Stable and Wise, and his mission is to solve ageism. He believes four skills that he's built up over many years will help achieve his mission.

First, recruitment. He founded a recruitment business and published two books on job seeking, which are available on Amazon. He also wrote a book for employers on how to recruit better people, particularly the over 40s. Second, community building. He's built many large and vibrant communities, both online and offline. Third, coaching workshops for the mature. It's essential to up skill the over 40s, so they can find the job they want. And fourth, marketing. He spent 12 years running a strategic marketing agency focused on community building. Toby says we will not solve ageism unless we get the message out there.

Today, we're focused on ageism in the workplace. Toby, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.

Toby: Thanks, Brendan.

Brendan: Mate, it's great to have you on. We were talking a little bit off recording there before we hit the record button. You told me you're 70 this year and you're having a live wake. Tell me a bit more about that, mate. I've never heard of this living wake.

Toby: I've got a bit of Irish heritage along with a few other things. That's a big Irish tradition—the wake. It's always fun, it's a party, and everything else. People say all these nice and nasty things about the dead, usually nice because you can't speak ill of the dead.

A living wake, I'm there. And they're encouraged to say nasty things or at least tell silly stories about me where I offended people. We're having one of those in June this year. We're going to have at least 150 people here in our house and we're going to have a lot of fun.

Brendan: Mate, it does sound like a lot of fun. Are you worried about anything in particular? What do you think is the thing that they’re going to say really nice about you? And what's the thing that they think that you’ll hear that's maybe not so nice?

Toby: The nice things are that we are friends with nearly all of our children's friends. They think we are the best parents that have ever existed—me and Sarah—because we've always gone on holidays with lots of kids' friends. We were the only parents at most 21st, most weddings, most of everything. We were there. Anyway, they'll say nice things. My kids will say nice things, but they'll also say some appalling things. I don't know what exactly, but they will.

Brendan: Surely there's a bad habit they've said to you that is just a bad habit. What is it?

Toby: Don't listen, but God, I've been working on it hard. Dad, you never listen. One of the things I do with all my staff and interns is I teach them to be more emotionally intelligent. One of the keys to emotional intelligence is listening. I've been working hard on that now for about three years. I'm getting better, but I'm still [...].

Brendan: But you're improving. That's the main thing.

Toby: I'm improving.

Brendan: What's the shot meter? What level of [...] do you see that now as far as listening goes?

Toby: Halfway.

Brendan: Halfway? You're only half [...]?

Toby: Only half.

Brendan: It's certainly better than being full [...].

Toby: Yeah, correct. I don't know. What else is it? I don't know. What else am I? I'm very set in my ways. I believe strongly in so many things. There's only a certain way. I don't like prejudice of any type.

I can often cause upsets when I'm out with my children or my wife because I challenge. If anyone shows prejudice in front of me, I always call it out. I'm careful. I'm not rude about it. I just say, oh, that's a bit much or, really?

I try to be friendly, but occasionally, I get some very angry reactions. No one likes being called a racist, an ageist, a misogynist, or disablist. What's the word for that? I'm not sure what it is.

Brendan: We've got a lot of this in society nowadays, mate.

Toby: Yeah, we do. The most important of all of them, the one that costs us the most money, that absolutely dwarfs all the others, and is almost never discussed, is today's topic. It's ageism. It dwarfs everything else because it gets combined with all the others. It just becomes a nightmare for people, for governments, and for employers.

Brendan: Yeah, mate. That's certainly what we're going to unpack a bit of today, given your extensive experience in that space. When did you first get involved in this or get interested in ageism?

Toby: I was a recruitment consultant for many years, about 18–19 years. I wrote a few books on recruitment, careers, whatever. But then I started to see this pattern. 

I actually had a client and this is where I really got upset. He runs one of the most successful funds management businesses in Australia. He still does, by the way. He said to me one day, Toby, stop giving me people over 40. I will never hire anybody over 40 because if they haven't made it by 40, there's a good chance they won't make it with me. I don't want to waste time. I could be wrong, he said, but I'm not going to waste time. There are good people in their 20s and 30s.

He's still wholesales. When he told me that, by the way, he was 48–49 and I was two years older than him. He still runs that business today. He's on the global board as well. He's a serious person, lots of staff.

Brendan: Have you changed his thinking?

Toby: I couldn't change it. I still can't. I still play tennis with him every week, but I can't change his thinking. I cannot change it. That's when I knew it was intractable. Then I started trying to solve it. And I thought I'll solve it easily.

I just get some media coverage. Not a problem. I was all over the place. I even had 7–8 minutes on the 7:30 report. I had a head of HR who couldn't find a job. A very employable guy. He should have had a job straight away.

We had this long interview. I was on two news channels, 10 or 7 I think. I was in all the broadsheets. I had a whole page in the Australian. What happened? Nothing.

I then got some partners together to try and solve it, GFC hit. Then I had Zurich as a partner to try and solve this, and then GFC hit, and no one wants to hire anybody. It was like when Covid hit, like suddenly, no, no, no, go away, not going to happen. Someone said to me, Toby, you're a jinx. It's the second time you tried this. First time was GFC, the second time was Covid.

Brendan: You've got great timing in life, mate.

Toby: Great timing, but I say I am glad I did because I didn't realize what the real problems were when I tried to launch this with [...] Seed Capital way back late-2019, early-2020. I would have wasted the entire seed capital.

Brendan: Let's just hold that thought about some of the causes. What's a well-known definition for you around ages and to help us understand a little bit better?

Toby: Okay. Employment ageism is when people are excluded from being interviewed or being hired purely because of their age. It's as simple as that. When does ageism start? A part of the confusion and why no one believes ageism is a problem is no one can agree on what the date is. There is only one age that has incontrovertible proof of when ageism stats.

I can't even remember back to this, but it's when you're age 40. And for women, it's actually 38–39 because they also suffer from appearance ageism and sexual attraction ageism. So many men don't want someone old in their office, in fact, to life.

New Zealand did a wonderful study on this. It's an old study now, I must admit. It was around 2006–2007. But if you were a secretary or a receptionist and you were over 40, forget it. You won't get an interview. So don't lose your job. Of course, if you network and someone knows you, how brilliant you are and so on, but most people don't have good networks.

Brendan: With that example, you say a female over 40 and maybe executive assistant, or reception, or whatever, what are the things that are going through someone's head to say, well, no, she's too old for that or we need a younger lady, a younger woman, a more vibrant woman, or whatever the terms are going? What's going through their head?

Toby: Whatever it is, what's going through their head is they're judging someone by the cover. I'll talk about it now because I think it's important. I like the analogy, you can't judge a book by its cover.

Let's say there's an old Mercedes parked on the side of a road with a big for-sale sign sitting there. It's very dented, battered, and it's for sale. You're thinking, come on it's cheap, but will it last? Is it any good? What you don't know is what's hidden. It's the same with mature age people. Unless you know what's hidden behind the face, you don't know.

The biggest solution to ageism is to understand people's hidden strengths. That's something we do, but we'll come to that later. What's going through their heads? For a lot of men, I don't want to hire my mother. You got a 27-year-old office manager and he's going, I don't want to hire my mother.

You got sales managers who say, listen, if we're going to open doors, we've got to have attractive women. We can't have old boilers. We need short skirts, we need that sort of stuff. Appearance ageism and sexual attraction ageism is critical when it comes to front-facing jobs for women. It's also, to a lesser extent, for men but marginal.

Brendan: You referred to the Mercedes, a motor vehicle. If you think about the history of motor vehicles, say, an aged motor vehicle. They start off really nice, everyone loves them, and they are flashy. Then they get older and they get sort of discarded, so to speak. But they hit that 30 years of age and everyone loves them again because they're now vintage. Does that process happen with ageism?

Toby: No, but a lot of second-hand cars are sold with long warranties now. A lot of second-hand cars are really reliable. We're a Subaru family. We had our first Subaru for 12 years and we only got rid of it because there are better ones around now.

We're now on our third Subaru and it's nine years old. It's not going anywhere. That second-hand Mercedes, you don't know what's under the cover. You don't know what's in the glove box. There's a five-year warranty. Some cars, old cars, typically European cars are sold with long warranties.

You don't know any of that. You don't know how good the engine is. You don't know if it starts first go. You don't know how powerful it is, how reliable it is, until you use it for a few weeks. One of the solutions to ageism is mature age internships.

Brendan: What does that look like, Toby? Tell us more about mature age internships.

Toby: That's a whole topic by itself. A lot of your listeners have seen the film called The Intern, Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. It's a Hollywood film. He's charming and old and she's beautiful and young. She runs a startup.

That is just so real. Mature age internships, which leads to another topic I was going to discuss later in this interview, Brendan, which is who are the most successful founders of startups? What age are they? Have a guess.

Brendan: The most successful age for startups.

Toby: And who starts the most startups? Which age starts for most startups?

Brendan: Forty to 50 range.

Toby: Yeah. You had a clue from this conversation, didn't you?

Brendan: It seemed too obvious, but I've said it anyway.

Toby: Seriously, I thought I'm making a joke on this. I've been working in the last few years in the startup hub. I was surrounded by 20-somethings and only 30-somethings. I'm surrounded by them.

Silicon Valley has done a lot of research on this, by the way. The most successful was a 43-year-old American. We're talking about a serious business now. Not every successful business is founded by older people. Everyone believes the myth of that moronic man that started some big thing, Facebook, I think. I can't remember now, what's his name?

Brendan: Mr. Zuckerberg, isn't it? Mark Zuckerberg.

Toby: Awful human being, but he's getting his comeuppance now. I think Facebook is probably history, but that's okay. Young people do start successful startups, but the majority are started by people in their 40s, who happened to have a couple of co-founders, who worked for them, essentially, because they're the bosses who were in their 20s and 30s. Maturity matters. I’ve forgotten why I'm even talking about that, but let's get back to where we were.

Brendan: Does that aid in the, I guess, scariness of employing an older person if we're saying that the most successful founders in startups are that 40–50? If you're saying ageism is starting around that 40 mark and people are aware of that, I think this person's going to shoot off anyway because they're going to go and start up something or whatever. Does that sort of help or hinder?

Toby: No, not at all. There's only about 100th of 1% of people who will start a successful business. I'm talking about a tech startup now. I'm talking about a cloud-based tech startup, a new way of doing things, something like Stable and Wise, completely turning recruitment on its head. There are not many people who are not as stupid as me to give this a go because I'm not making any money yet, but I'm about to. But what can I say? No, it doesn't. 

This is really important. This point is really important. Unless you understand the people's unconscious drivers, you are liable to hire a 45-year-old who just wants your job and will not settle down and work for you. Not only do we look at unconscious drivers, I also have three or four interview questions that absolutely isolate these people. They don't get anywhere near any of my clients. No way. 

Until they work out that the days of being the boss are probably over and if they try and take over wherever they work, they're just going to lose their job anyway. They're not going to get it in the first place and they're going to lose it. You really, really need to understand people's unconscious drivers. That's the secret sauce in my business. Back to the more questions before we get onto that.

Brendan: We're just on that. How often does that come about to Stable and Wise that you've got to maybe reset expectations? And in saying that, is it ever a case of, why can't they look at future management positions or taking on roles? Why can't they be as aspirational as any aged person?

Toby: They absolutely can, but don't apply for a junior management job or a junior job on the front desk expecting to move out quickly. If you expect that, you won't do a good job at all. There's nothing blocking it.

This is an important point. One of my mantras when I was in executive search—I was a higher-end recruiter for 19 years—was don't hire anybody who can't settle into that job, who is overqualified and underpaid for what they could do. If you're overqualified and underpaid, you got a problem. Or if you're going to hire them, be very clear with them that there's no promotion or no going up in the world until you have proved yourself and you've got to do really well in this job.

I stopped to all my clients because they also thought, this guy's terrific and I say, no, he's overqualified. He will expect too much too soon. All the questions I've asked him to find that out, show that. They said, but you presented him before. I said, yes, before I interviewed him, I just talked about him briefly. Now I know this person. Forget it.

If you've been an HR director or a marketing director in a medium-sized company, and there's a medium-sized job for a junior marketer in a medium-sized company, and you expect to become a marketing director again in a couple of years’ time, no, you're not joining any business that I'm involved with.

Brendan: Toby, what's some of your own story? I'm assuming you've experienced ageism yourself. Can you share some of that story?

Toby: Yes and no. Not too much, but a bit.

Brendan: Come on, you old bugger. Surely, you've heard something.

Toby: Yeah. I was head of marketing in an investment bank and I was about 38 years old. Back then, marketing was a young person's game. It still is, largely. I actually had a contract. Now that I'm being serious about this, I'm trying to think back, but I had a contract.

I took a six-week holiday to France. I came back and I got sacked two days after I got back. I, of course, spec chips and they have to give me a huge payout even as a contractor, but I then entered recruitment because I started to struggle to find another job. 

You know what? If you've got a big network of people and you can speak confidently, you're outgoing, every recruiter wants to hire you. Probably, very few people in Sydney have a bigger network than I do. I would suggest there are probably 50 people, 100 people. My network is just so diverse and so big, whether it's online or offline, and some very powerful people. Of course, my network includes the little people.

Brendan: I'm on the little people, mate. Thank you. Thank you for including me.

Toby: I wasn't talking of you. One of the tricks—it's in my books on how to recruit people—when you're interviewing someone, blah-blah, they're so nice to you, always ask the person who greeted them and who said goodbye to them if you've got a reception desk or whatever. And you will get such different impressions of many people.

Anyone who is rude to so-called little people is, in my opinion, unemployable and should never have a job anyway. They should all just bugger off. That's one of my prejudices, by the way. If you want to know what my kids find objectionable, that's one of them.

Brendan: I can understand where you're coming from. Are there some other tips or tricks you've learned in many years, 20 years or so of recruitment? Let's keep it to that 40+ ageism, but how do you cut through in the work that you do to identify those people that are maybe not quite right or they wouldn't be great in any organization?

Toby: You just ask obvious questions. The most obvious one, where do you see yourself in five years? They go in boots and all. Can you describe a team that you most enjoyed working in? People that don't understand teams and being a member of a team can't even choose a team.

They don't understand what the question means. They start talking about their ideal team that they manage. There are all sorts of ways that I work it out, but that's getting very technical about recruiting. Really, my new tool is that I don't interview anybody. My partner, Dennis, who's a psych, unless their psychological profile matches the profile of the employer's best people. 

We benchmark their best people in whatever role it is and then we go out and replicate them, but we don't even interview them. Everybody gets tested. It costs us nothing. We just send them a test, and it comes back. We look at it, yes, no, maybe. But we don't even send that out unless they have all the right skills for this job.

That's when we found out so much about people, then it's just four or five questions. That's more than that. There are about 20 questions, but I've given you a couple. There's a whole bunch of questions and we want to know whether they fit this culture, this team.

Brendan: That may be a good lead into what we are touching now, this ageism in the workplace, this topic we're diving into today. Why should leaders even care about a topic like this?

Toby: Employers should care because they're not hiring the best. Simple. If you've got over half of our community being discriminated against, there is a lot of talent in that community. It is just a statistical fact that if you have a giant pool of people and they're being discriminated against—it doesn't matter whether it's women, people of color, gender, LGBT, and so on—on average, there are people that are better than the general population. It's just the fact because all the good people are being rejected along with all the bad people. It's just a fact. 

I've had so many conversations with HR directors. They don't even know they're discriminating. They think, we don't. We would never discriminate against someone old. [...]. All the research done by the Human Resources Institute, every institute in the world shows that they constantly do. There are companies who will blatantly admit to researchers—we're talking 45% of organizations in Australia—we never hire anybody over the age of 50. Never. We just won't hire them.

If that's not ageism, I don't know what it is. Up on their walls as you walk into the foyer, you know what's there, don't you? All these things—we never discriminate, we are an equal opportunity employer. What a load of codswallop. It's just embarrassing.

They should be embarrassed, but they're not because they don't know. They're ignorant of the fact that they actually do discriminate. The question is, why should they care? Employees should care because they're not hiring the best. As simple as that. But government should care because it's costing our society well over $60 billion a year.

Deloitte has done this research. The United Nations have done this research about Australia and other countries. It is massive. It makes gender discrimination look miniscule because when you add in older women, they're even worse. We don't have that many people of color that cause grief or we have anti-Muslim prejudice, anti-religion. We have a lot of that, I know, but it's still minor compared to ageism.

Brendan: Can you give some context around that $60 billion? How does a figure like that come up with?

Toby: You'd have to look at Deloitte's research. It goes back. There's a whole bunch of stuff. People are retiring too early. And if you retire because they're forced to retire, they can't find a job. If you start digging in this area, you will find so many thousands of people who prepared to say online with their names attached that they've applied for over a hundred jobs and just been ignored.

Once that happens for a couple of years, they withdraw from the workforce. So now, they're no longer paying tax and they're getting all the support benefits of retirement and unemployment benefits, whatever. The average time spent unemployed starts to rise at 40. Unemployment benefits are hugely expensive. It's tragic.

What else is there? There's more. People who cannot find work get sicker. Their health suffers, they get depressed. Mental health issues are vital. Ageism. There are a couple more, but I can't remember them right now, Brendan, because I'm too old. I just forget all the facts. But also, you have to remember—and I said it before and I'll say it again—that the inconsistency around when ageism starts makes statistics incredibly complicated. 

I decided this a few days ago and I was thinking about this interview. I'm doing a couple more next week as well. We got the next. We need to do a bibliography of all the research around the world. All of ours come from the English-speaking world, of course, because that's what I'm searching for in English. But I also know from my Swedish friends and other Scandinavian friends that it is an epidemic over there as well. 

The only place where ageism is not quite so severe is in the countries that venerate the old. They venerate them, but they don't want to hire them. Japan as well and everything else. If you've lost your job after 30 years in one company, God forbid, you're going to find another one on a similar level. The real cost as well is not just unemployment. It's underemployment and wrongful employment.

I had a friend who ran an investment bank 20 years ago and ended up working in a video shop at Kings Cross at night. He could not even get a job as a junior investment banker, of course. I now know why, but that was 30 years ago, actually.

He ended up getting a job, eventually, administering a branch office of a company from Melbourne. He was so much more capable from that. It's wrongful employment. We have engineers, we have nuclear physicists, et cetera, heads of HR driving Ubers.

Brendan: What do us old people—because I'm 40-plus, you're 40-plus—bring to the table?

Toby: Wisdom. Why do you think we call this business Stable and Wise? We bring a number of things. We bring wisdom, resilience, and stability. We stay five times longer in jobs than people in their 20s and 30s. What do we bring? Continuity.

I'm doing a talk to a whole bunch of HR managers up in Queensland next week. The costs of staff turnover, if you think an older person maybe not so good in technology, you're probably wrong because they actually are. We haven't even mentioned the four myths yet, have we? They're myths and false beliefs.

If you lose someone in your job, then somewhere between 4 and 18 months of their salary is what it costs to replace them. Four to 18 months. That's massive. That includes the fact that the job was empty for a while, and then you've got the recruitment fees, and all the time to interview them, and so on and so forth. There's a huge cost involved.

Of course, they come on board and they don't know your culture, your processes, anything, and it takes them another few months to learn that. Depending on the seniority, it's 4–18 months. And nobody will argue with those things. Nobody. In the Human Resources world. It's absolutely categorically true. If you're looking at relative productivity, if someone stays five times longer, boy, their productivity is so much higher.

Brendan: You've mentioned HR managers up in Queensland, my home state. Next week, enjoy your time up there, mate. I'm sure Queensland has a look after you, buddy.

Toby: They will. I'll speak to the local government association and HR managers. It's a webinar as well. I offered to come up but they said no because when it was scheduled, it was back in Covid. I thought, well, I know we need to go anyway. I've got a lot of talks in Queensland, and I always host very well, I’ll say.

Brendan: Very good to hear. You mentioned HR, but you mentioned the four myths. We'll go into those. I'll ask you about those soon. But HR managers, I guess the question I have is around that recruitment side. I'm not saying I agree with this, but historically, certainly in the last 25–30 years maybe, recruitment seems to have rested as a responsibility within HR.

If ageism is a problem and you're saying it is and there is lots of research by very credible organizations as well as yourself packing that up, what the hell is HR doing? How are they helping?

Toby: This is the thing. First of all, HR can never understand every single job in the business. They just can't. It's not possible. What they do is follow a good process. That's what they think they do. They follow a good process. And that process does not solve the problem because I'm about to say why.

They are also told all the time by the line managers—typically the people doing the recruiting are in their 30s and 40s—things like, look, someone in their 20s and 30s is most likely to fit our culture. We're a pretty young team. Of course, we'll look at other people.

What does the HR manager know? They know full well that they put forward, just like when I put forward the final over 40-year-olds to my fund management CEO. He just said, Toby, enough, I'm not doing it. I'm not going to look at any of them, stop sending them to me. Did I stop? Of course, I did.

I had a business to run. And I was wasting the time of my candidates as well as my own and my clients. What was the point? So HR will not put forward candidates that they know that their racist, sexist person will hire. By the way, probably the only ones that they will put forward, and this is sort of my standard running joke. It's not a joke, it's a very serious thing, but a recruitment agency will send to an employer a 90-year-old black woman in a wheelchair, and should arrive being pushed by her wife, and will openly admit that she's a lesbian.

Why would they present someone like that and why would they be hired? Because it ticks every single box. So they cover five EEO things in one go. I've had the conversation where we've ticked off three with an employer. Let's not pretend that HR doesn't know.

They're not the ones that really understand what this job needs. They also use Mickey Mouse sight tests at the end, which is too late. Once you've gone to all that trouble, you've got a shortlist. 

I used to work for Macquarie Bank and they used to do testing at the end. Eventually, the ones that kept working with me, I got them to stop. I said, don't do it. You're just wasting everybody's time.

Brendan: I hear you, mate. There's a lot of box ticking going on in various things, particularly HR in my view. Again, that's a whole other topic, isn't it? It sounds like you've had some extensive experience in it.

You referred to the four myths or you mentioned there are four myths. What are these four? Because I don't know what the four myths are. I've been waiting to hear it. What are the four myths of ageism?

Toby: They're myths. They're false beliefs. They're prejudices and false beliefs. Let's get to the first one, health. The older people will take more sick days. By the way, all the four myths, the research is overwhelming that they're all wrong. I can't share that with you today, but I might share it with you later on in a few weeks because we're doing a massive bibliography with online links.

People kept saying, well, you keep saying this, Toby, where are they? Also I'd send them a couple of things and I thought that it's not enough. I need to send them 50–100 serious surveys and research.

First one, health. We take more sick days. No, we take less than half. Over 50s take less than half the sick days of the 20 somethings. And why? Partly because sick days are often voluntary with the young.

You've had a big night out, you're a bit hungover, you don't feel too good, and you don't go to work. I don't think any parent is going to shake their heads with that. I can remember my kids when they first started work.

Brendan: Can I tell you a very short story about that in my own experience?

Toby: Yeah.

Brendan: My parents raised me fantastically well in a good work ethic. I hardly ever took a sick day. Even for my 21st, which ended up the actual day, ended up on a Monday night from memory. We're out until 6:30 the next morning. I got home at 6:30 and went straight to work from that. Thankfully, we didn't have drug and alcohol testing back in the day. I was just in an office. So I've made it. I went to work, but I did fall asleep on the toilet at lunchtime and they had to come and wake me up.

Toby: It sounds like Japanese salary workers that used to go to work and just fall asleep because they just couldn't stay awake any longer.

Brendan: Absolutely. I was only 21, but I didn't take the easy road. I went straight through and back into work, mate.

Toby: Fantastic. I'm just going to have a quick look for some magnesium tablets. I've got some here somewhere. Why? Because I play so much tennis and I got a big cup this afternoon. I overdid it this week with training for the adolescents. I had three lessons in one week. Anyway, enough of that.

Brendan: I love the magnesium tablets. Good on you. I have one each day most myself.

Toby: You got to have them. I can't quite see my supply in the studio, but I’ll find them.

Brendan: Again, going back to the chair. Don't fall off the chair like you're fainted because you've got reduced magnesium or something.

Toby: But I keep talking while I look. The over 30s, particularly in the times of Covid, have higher stress levels. They have higher rates of depression, absolutely. Of course, they do. Their health, generally, isn't good. They're worst sleepers.

They not only have fake sickies, they actually are less healthy. They don't look after themselves as well. Us oldies know we have to look after ourselves. And I'm putting you in that because if you're over 40, you're an oldie, you have to look after yourself. You can't go on. You got to take magnesium tablets, right?

Brendan: Absolutely, mate. Have you tried that Voost? I just get those Voost tablets and put them in some water every morning and they're really good.

Toby: I take those when I'm playing on a hot day. In fact, tonight's game, if it doesn't rain again, will be a good three-hour marathon. I'm going to need something like that.

Brendan: We might have to try and get this episode sponsored by Voost. What do you reckon?

Toby: Yeah. All right, the second big myth. We are technophobes. We don't understand technology. Before I say why this is rubbish, I got to say a couple of things. Technology is clearly vital in virtually every job in the world now. Apart from manual factory and laboring works, technology is vital.

Secondly, the young are really good at certain technologies. Think Facebook, iPhones, TikTok, and so on. But when it comes to work technology, the stuff that makes businesses run, governments run, et cetera, we are streets ahead. You're thinking database, you're thinking project management software. You're thinking almost everything, spreadsheets, formatting, Google, or Microsoft documents, high-level formatting.

The young have no idea. The number of young people I've hired over the years—and there's quite a few of these—who would give me a spreadsheet, I'd say, go and put these figures in and let's look at the results. I changed a couple of their numbers and I noticed suddenly that the bottom total didn't change. They'd edit it up on a calculator and typed the answer in.

The first time that happened, I didn't notice it until too late and I was talking to a client. Embarrassing. After that, I checked every single total. Technology, business technologies. We are the fastest growing users of IT. We have to keep our jobs. We can't just wing it like young people do.

I've always got two or three young interns in my business. I pretty used to say, oh, they want it. I actually tell them this, by the way, regularly because they don't really want to learn. So I make sure they do if they're working with me. We have some long-term interns with us, they have to learn. We are adaptive. We cope better with stress. We cope better with learning. That's the technology. That's the second big myth. 

You know what? Nearly every one of my friends in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, all of them believe they use the same technology. I think you said this earlier before this call started. The biggest problem with ageism is that it’s believed by everybody. I'll come to that in a second. Why does it persist? Because the old believe it as well.

Third, our wages are higher. We cost more. Absolute rubbish. Not when greater experience, skills, and productivity are taken into account. Experience plus skills plus stability plus subconscious strengths equals high productivity. That's really the reality. So we don't cost more.

Biden, Trump, and Pelosi. Love them or hate them, they are still highly functioning people, aren't they? They're not exactly young. They make me look young.

Brendan: The question, one out of the three.

Toby: Oh, yeah. Trump. You’re not anti-Trump, are you? He's still highly functioning.

Brendan: I'm not anti-Trump. I'm just talking about what we see through the media. I'd have to say that probably one of the three is not as high functioning as what they need to be. And that's probably the most dangerous at the moment.

Toby: It could be Biden, I agree. But anyway, it doesn't matter. Guys, it doesn't matter what they are still, they're still in high-powered jobs. They're still functioning pretty well. Maybe not at the level of president or speaker of the house, but they are there.

We can say we don't want to hire anyone over 40, but then how come the presidents and the speaker are all over 70? Is Pelosi 80 yet? I don't know. That's fine. I have no idea.

Brendan: No, I'm not sure. She's over 40, so she definitely fits the ageism category.

Toby: The final myth and I'll keep this short, delusion, I would call it. It's the mature are less intelligent, innovative, and creative, that we lose our powers as we get older. No. Overwhelming research, all those powers are unchanged. The young think we are losing it, to use an Australian expression, because we can't recall names quickly.

We've got what we were talking about a minute ago. I've done that twice on this call. That's just the way it is. Anyone young joining me, I tell them upfront, expect it and don't think I'm stupid because I can't remember your name. That's really important. Who's responsible for ageism? Do you want me to talk about that?

Brendan: I do, but I want to ask you. Why are you employing young interns and not 40-plus?

Toby: I've got both. My business partners are all 60-plus.

Brendan: All right, I'll let you off the hook.

Toby: When my seed funding got canceled in the beginning of 2020, we signed our terms of agreement. I don't know if you've ever raised seed capital. We had a big signing ceremony on Friday. That night on the news, all those young people of Bondi were saying, look, we have to leave the beach. We're just going to go to our place and have a house party.

By Monday morning, New South Wales was in lockdown, the phone calls from the two seed capital people came in. Can we put this on hold? Luckily, because I would have wasted that seed capital. I would have wasted it because I didn't really understand ageism, why it persists, and what caused it. I didn't realize how nobody believes it's real.

Brendan: Let's go into that area now that you referred to before. Who is responsible? Where does responsibility sit in this? There are always two sides of the coin, right?

Toby: Everybody's responsible. That's the point. Everybody except recruitment agents. That goes against everyone's beliefs. I know because I've done research on this and most people who couldn't get a job believe that it was the agents, the young. But they're all young and they're all backpackers from England or they used to be.

Now there are a few less of those, but they're still young homies. We used to call them barrow boys and girls because that's what they were. They were hard-selling people. Anyway, but it's not their fault. Who's responsible? Employers, governments, and even the over 40s, everyone.

Why aren't recruitment agencies responsible? Because we've discussed it before, their job is to give you what you said you want. It's not their fault. They'll give you that 90-year-old in a wheelchair, not a problem. They just deliver it. If there's a $10,000 fee attached to that 90-year-old or more commonly $15,000, they'll send her in her wheelchair. That's done. No question. 

I've presented at lots of recruitment conferences over the years—in Canada, Florida, Columbus, Ohio, Singapore—and recruiters are in the room. None of them will deny that they would do that. They know. We all know we give employers what they say they want, what we know they will hire. If they say, I'm not going to hire anyone over 40, you're wasting everybody's time presenting them. Why do that? You got to make a living. You got to feed the kids. I had to face that. He's my best client. By the way, he's a very good friend as well. He's just ignorant about age. That's not his fault.

Brendan: I guess at the end of the day—just expanding on that point, Toby—that even taking a stand on that and saying, well this is what I believe in or whatever, but you probably wouldn't have a recruitment business for too long because they'll just go to the next recruitment agent that will feel what they need and what they're being asked to do.

Toby: Look. Very few still, today, work exclusively like I used to. Most of them, the big corporations will send out a job to what they call their preferred suppliers. Three recruitment agencies get it. The first one to get the resume in gets the placement. Even if all three present the same person, the first one to do it gets the job. It is the dumbest process I've ever heard. It is so stupid, but I kind of go into that because I've written a book on this. There's a lot to say about it, but here we go. 

Why does it persist? There are two main ones. Basically, governments and a lot of employers believe that if you can't find a job, it's your personal responsibility to fix it. So get more training, get more positive, build your networks, and do whatever. Lose weight, get fit, and all that sort of stuff. You are told that by every single company, and it's just rubbish. 

Personal responsibility, of course, is important. Of course, you've got to have the right skills, but that doesn't solve it. How can you show you're positive, fit, and healthy if you can't even get an interview? After 100 applications, 200 applications, not a single interview. I think you're insane, by the way, that it gets to 200 and you haven't stopped. That's the definition of insanity, surely, but people do it.

The other thing is this. The government is spending so much money on a couple of schemes that are just like pouring money down a plug hole. One of those is in an upskilling program and that's sort of okay, but all it does is make everybody frustrated because they still can't find a job at the end of it.

I present on some of those programs, so I understand. I got feedback from the people about how useful they found the course they were on. The government's paying for it, right? And the answer is useless. Absolutely useless, but the other scheme is even worse.

This is the one where the government just doesn't understand the recruitment industry. They don't understand the 90-year-old in the wheelchair. They just don't get it. The agents will put forward anybody that they think can get a job. What happens?

What they did, they started a scheme that they'll pay the agencies $300 or $400 to register people who are unemployed. They are job seekers. And a lot of those people are all old, of course, because they're overrepresented. I think they pay that money and then they get a sliding scale of fees depending on how disadvantaged those people are. No mention of age, by the way. Just skills and whatever.

If you're aboriginal, you get the top marks and so on. Those are the top fees. But they're also people that are basically unemployable because of prejudice. What do the agencies do as well? They set up these hundreds of these offices all over Australia. They're in the suburbs. They're upstairs in a suburban office, very cheap rent.

They've got a receptionist who's actually a lowly-paid recruiter, who collects the information, gives them a whole verbiage about how they're going to help them find a job, and then they make one phone call later. That's it. You pocket your $300 or $400. It's only taken you maybe 10–20 minutes of work. It's a good return and that's it. Nothing else happens. Why would they present someone who is virtually unemployable but they also don't have jobs? How are they going to get the jobs?

Brendan: That's crazy. I've never heard of that scheme. What's that scheme called?

Toby: It's called the employment network or something. Again, I can't remember these names. They're also bland and stupid. It has had two iterations of names. Our treasurer who is 49–50 is the ultimate believer being on the writer politics, in personal responsibility. He's the ultimate.

I also agree with that concept, it just doesn't apply here. He doesn't understand recruitment. He has no idea. We're talking many billions of dollars here for these two schemes. We're not talking nothing. And it's a complete and utter failure.

He just renewed the scheme because he was under political pressure last year. He renewed it early last year because under pressure to be seen to be doing something because of all the unemployment back then.

Brendan: You've mentioned a couple of schemes and stuff. In your humble opinion, what should governments be doing to help with this ageism crisis?

Toby: It is humble only because no one's listening to me at the moment in government. I'm trying very hard to get appointments with government. They just don't care. They're totally focused on getting reelected, both of them, state and federal, all of them. All they care about is will this get me reelected? Is it part of our thing? You want to cancel my program? That's going to be tricky.

What they should do is really simple. They need to sponsor an online training program that has all of this stuff with constant webinars. They could sponsor what I do, but it doesn't have to be me. It doesn't matter. Someone who's really good at training people on how to get a job and training employers on how to hire older people.

That's simple. That's very low cost. That might be $1 billion a year, max, as opposed to $10–$20 billion a year. It's very hard to get the real numbers from the government, but it's bloody expensive.

What else should they do? Start spreading the word that ageism is just dumb, that it's costing us $60–$100 billion every year here in Australia. It's damaging our employers. Most importantly, nearly everybody will suffer at some point in their lives from employment ageism. They'd be driving Ubers rather than working in banking. That's what they should do.

Brendan: When we talk about change, Toby, you're talking about change, changing mindsets, changing beliefs, and all these things within the mind. For something to change, there always needs to be that crisis or burning bridges are a term that gets used to be. What's the burning bridge to drive this change? We look at the unemployment rate, which is very low. I think it was 4.8 on the last announcement.

Toby: It's coming down.

Brendan: They're even saying it's going to go down around three-something. Life's about timing, but if you put that in perspective, is this a case where actually people, employers, leaders in organizations, may not find that they've got a choice? They actually have to get over this ageism barrier and start to look at 40-plus people because if they don't, they're just going to end up with nobody. There are not enough people in the workforce.

Toby: Well, there is. Unemployment is falling. That's true. And therefore, there are skill shortages. There are major pockets of skill shortages just all over the country. Worse in some states and others, worse in some professions and industries and others, but there are major skill shortages. There's no burning bridge.

I can go to a company and say, well, you can't hire these people. And they go, yeah, because there aren't any. And I say, well, yes, there are. That education process is taking up awfully long time. I'm getting there and Dennis (my partner) is getting there. Now we finally have this tool that will prove that the older are actually better than the young because of all the things that matter in their subconscious that drives productivity.

We're talking to some very large companies and hopefully we'll have a trial shortly. Well, not trial but active with large companies, because little ones don't have any impact. It doesn't get very far. I'm really hoping that Atlassian will be one of those companies. I'm really hoping, but they're the most ageist bunch of people you’ll ever likely meet. I've met Cannon-Brookes and I know his father.

Brendan: What makes you say that? Have you got an example that you can share?

Toby: He was so successful, so young. He just believes the young are great. He believes you cannot be a good coder, which is the biggest shortage of skills is around coding. Coding drives the startup economy. It drives the cloud. Coding is engineers, as they call it in the business, but they're coders. His staff don't believe that someone in their 50s can actually hire great coders. 

A friend of mine is doing a startup in artificial intelligence. It's his second startup. He got the first one listed. He made a couple of million and he's a happy boy. Now he's doing another one in artificial intelligence. 

He rehired someone who was 52, who was his previous coder on the first startup. He had him for two years before he realized the guy was a little bit negative about his company. But for two years, he was the best coder in the business. Then he stopped seeing solutions because he thought the AI was going to fail. Forget the story. The point was, he was a great coder, even though he was 52 when he was rehired.

That's the only personal story I know about coders. If you're good at it, you're good at it. I'm really good at database manipulation and whatever. I'm turning 70. Do I become worse at that when I get older? No.

Brendan: I want to get back to the point of personal responsibility because you mentioned a couple of times in the context of government and right thinking that you and I spoke before we hit the record button. If we look at personal responsibility, what personal responsibilities do the people that fall into these age categories, the 40-plus need to take on?

Again, because you made a couple of comments during the interview. They're just tongue-in-cheek sort of stuff, but you've mentioned it's a young man's game. We talked offline about how you can't teach an old dog new tricks and all this. How does personal responsibility come in in helping these people get—

Toby: We talked about how you can teach old dogs new tricks.

Brendan: Yes, exactly. We believe you can teach an old dog, but we talked about the same, you can't.

Toby: You made it sound like I didn't believe it.

Brendan: No, no. I'm not trying to discredit you completely.

Toby: No. Again, that's fine. I was joking. I appreciated that. You can teach an old dog new tricks. I think I talked to you about my tennis. I learn a new shot at least every couple of months because I played comp. If you only have three or four good shots, you are not going to win comp. You have to have at least 10–12 good shots. You don't use them all the time, but you're in your armory. You can teach old dogs. What was the question again?

Brendan: Just if you got the personal responsibility.

Toby: You've got to take personal responsibility. Of course, you do. It's your life. But the most important thing, you got to learn skills. If you really can't work on spreadsheets, or databases, or whatever it is that you need for your job, you have to go off and get courses and learn.

The government pays for all of it. It's free. It's just your time. You have to do all that. If you're a fat, lazy person, go out and get fit. Be a fit fat person. That's fine, but don't be an unfit fat person because you come across as unfit. You've got to be fit.

What else? You got to be positive. You've got to build your networks. Here's the biggest thing. Here's the most important thing of all. If you want to take personal responsibility, understand that it's not your fault. It's not your personal problems that are causing this problem. It is the recruitment industry. It is the recruitment system. It is designed to make you fail. Not deliberately. It just is. Until the government understands that and employers understand that, we will not solve it.

You've got to have the right skills. You got to be healthy. You got to be energetic. You've got to have some networks. It's still the best way to find a job, whether you're old or young, for your networks.

One reason why I was a good headhunter was because I had giant networks. I could help people connect and do stuff. I could check with them who was good, and who was bad, and whatever. Anyway, all good.

Why do they break the law? Why does nearly every employer constantly break the law and not know they do it? It's all these secret preferences. I think we touched on that briefly before, the person most likely to succeed.

By the way, this is another reason why HR shouldn't be involved. They don't have the recruitment agency in the room, usually, when they're being briefed. It's Chinese whispers now. It's gone from the head of the department or the head of the company, to HR, to the recruiter, and then across to the candidate. By the time it gets to the candidate, you can almost guarantee the job is nothing like what the hiring manager thought it was. It doesn't matter often, but sometimes it really matters.

Anyway, the secret preferences. The person most likely to succeed is in their 20s and 30s. To be honest, we're a very Anglo department here. Mate, I hate to say it, but we're nearly all women. We need a woman for this job. That, by the way, is increasingly common. Men just probably won't cut it. These are all the secret preferences that are all illegal. It's breaking the law. 

Also the frontline recruiters are nearly all under 40. Nearly all of them are under 45, certainly. That's whether they work for the corporation, or the government, or they work for the agency. They're all under 40.

What does that mean? Let me have a look at this. There's no way to prove they broke the law. When I first started talking about this, I ran a massive seminar on this along with the Human Resources Institute back in 2009, I think, 2010. Anyway, my big thing was we just drove discrimination underground.

We banned discrimination. We banned the symptom, recruitment, and advertising. You couldn't specify gender, age, color, whatever. You couldn't discriminate in public. All we did was drive it underground when no one could prove it.

The only way to prove it is to get that employer to release every single resume, which is a real problem because they are meant to be confidential. You can't prove it. All I have to say is no. We put forward the best candidates or we hire the best candidate. That's it. 

Brendan: Let's break that up into the bucket. What are suggested solutions for you from a workplace perspective? People in workplaces are actually recruiting. Not the recruiters, but the HR people, the leaders in the business, what do they need to do? What are some solutions that they need to look at?

Toby: They need to research. They need to discover that ageism is a serious problem. And they are simply wrong, that their organizations are discriminating despite all the words on the walls and on the website. It's just rubbish. It's not true.

They need to understand that. And if they don't understand it, it doesn't matter what anyone says. No. I've been shown the door by an HR manager, who was actually a bit of a friend of mine. She said, Toby, you're wasting our time. We don't discriminate here. Well, the fact is, they did significantly discriminate.

It took a while for her to understand that, but what can we do? What can they do? They've got to understand that there is a problem. Then they got to understand that there are some solutions. 

The very first one is absolutely critical. I think you and I talked about The Intern, the movie. Was that online or was that before we came on?

Brendan: No, you mentioned it earlier in the interview, actually. A great movie.

Toby: Yeah, it's a good movie. It's Hollywood. I don't like Hollywood movies, but that one, I had to watch because it was in my field.

Brendan: I'm going to have to watch this movie tonight now. You've just picked out Friday night movie night.

Toby: By the way, it's a lot of fun. Anne Hathaway is, of course, drop dead gorgeous.

Brendan: She's very gorgeous.

Toby: Yeah, and she's a good actor, and so is Robert De Niro. It's a great cast. The script's just a little bit childish for someone who's in recruitment. But anyway, that's fine.

Your age then touches a vital part of the solution, both for candidates and for employers. The candidate gets to show what they're good at? Prove it. We're offering those 4–6 weeks. You just pay them the minimum wage, $20 an hour. And there's no contract.

You don't have to hire them, but no one's going to do it unless I think you will hire them. There's a good chance but there's no guarantee of a position. It's really about sock it and see. What else? Almost no Australian [...]—I don't think any do, by the way, but I could say almost none—offer mature age internships. All of the internships are for young people. They do have what's called reverse mentoring, where their existing staff mentor young staff and vice-versa, which isn't, again, vital, but it doesn't solve recruitment. 

They need to learn how the industry works so that the candidates can stop blaming themselves. There is nothing more depressing. I blamed myself that I couldn't find a job when I got retrenched as a contractor, but I was retrenched as a marketing manager. The investment bank was in serious trouble, by the way, that they needed the money. 

At the end of the day, I blame myself when I couldn't find another job quickly. I just took on recruitment as a temporary thing and stayed for 19 years like an idiot, but I did because I actually enjoyed a lot of it. And I wrote books about it. I constantly tried to change the industry and be different. I didn't make nearly as much money as some of those sharks that actually ran the big firms, but that's life. 

We were just salespeople. I don't disparage sales people, but I do disparage it when it's about people's lives. They damage people's lives. They just sell bodies. They damage business, they damage people's lives. It is scary. It absolutely is. I won't mention any names, but there are a couple. There's one guy. He's Australian and he became the most successful recruiter in the world. A nice guy. He found me a job once in an investment bank.

Brendan: Are you telling me you've sold your body?

Toby: Well, it's a good job for me. It's perfect. He interviewed me for five minutes and decided I was perfect.

Brendan: I'd like to after five minutes.

Toby: That's fine, but was I the right person for a very complex investment banking job? Maybe not.

Brendan: Different decision, isn't it?

Toby: Difficult, yeah. For employers, okay. You've got to find a recruiter. I believe there's only one in Australia and that's me and Dennis, who gets the subconscious strengths, who never interviews anybody unless they not only have the skills, but we know that they have subconscious strengths. And it's because Dennis owns the software.

All the other companies, Macquarie Bank and all those that use testing, and there are lots of them, have to pay a lot of money for every test. It's $1000 a test or something. They've got to write reports and everything else. It's a lot of money. Whereas Dennis and I, it's nothing.

We've got 50 applicants, 25 had the skills. We test all 25, 5 or 10 of them have the right strengths, a quick phone interview, narrow it down, and then we have long interviews with 3 or 4 of them. The client only sees a couple. Because we're doing so many less interviews and much less work, our fees are less than half what others charge.

We have to start changing it because going back to that car, the older worker has these hidden strengths, but you don't know what they are. They can use other tests to do this. They don't have to use us. That's absolutely.

You benchmark your best people. Our first question, Brendan, if you had a lot of staff, it will be, do you want us to hire you a new intern or salesperson? How many of you got? Okay, you got about 10. Which of those are your very best? And then we test those. We profile those people, and we benchmark them, and we profile the boss as well, the sales manager.

We go and we basically replicate the best. That is so simple. We rarely have to interview 10 people because we can tell very quickly who will complement the existing team and who is at least as good as the existing team.

You know what? Mature age workers always test better. For a sales job, what's one of the big things for a sales job do you think? What would it be? High energy, yeah, but what else?

Brendan: I think personal connection, being able to connect with people.

Toby: Critical, great, but another one is they take rejection well and they bounce back. They're resilient. Now the mature are much more resilient than the young. They don't take it so personally. There are certain psychology types always.

I take it personally. That's why I'm a [...] salesman. I'm not a good salesman. I take it less personally than I used to, but I still take it personally. You don't use me. God, really, why not? We're terrific.

Anyway, they're resilient on their personality profile, but if they're older, they tend to be a lot more resilient. They also stay around for longer. If you're in a sales job and you're doing well, you want these people to stick with you. Get rid of them, of course, if they're not doing well. But if they're doing well, you don't want them to walk out the door in three years time.

That's what happens with young people. They walk out the door in 18 months to 2½ years. What else is there? The opportunities. One of my favorite lines is, why do fish employer's reject makes them the best?

Brendan: That's the John West line, isn't it?

Toby: It's the John West line. They're rejecting them so that the pool of older people is full of good fish. I think we discussed that earlier. I think that's absolutely critical for this whole thing.

If you accept that and understand, okay, well, maybe they're a bit old. Maybe they look a bit rusty like the old car, but maybe they're the best because they're in that pool and there are more of them. The good ones are keen to upskill and keep going and they'd stay with you much longer. That's it.

What more do you want from an employee? Someone wants to learn, that fits the team. By the way, this testing we do is also about team building. We want to not only replicate your best, we want to find those that will complement your best with their various skills.

Are they more of an auditory person, more of a visual, or more of a kind of aesthetic? Whatever it might be. Did they earn money? May I ask you this question, did you earn money before you were 10 years old? Did you have a job?

Brendan: I think I did some bobber job stuff, old cub scout things, but I don't think that was me earning money. I think that was money for fundraising or something.

Toby: It was for me because I used to pocket it.

Brendan: I made the audit. I can't remember. I thought it was for fundraising. But anyway, bobber job's about the only thing I can remember prior to 10 years old.

Toby: Good. That's just one of the things. I used to make very bad kites when I was living up in Kuala Lumpur. Very bad kites, but I sold them to all my friends. The parents used to roll their eyes and hand over the money.

Bobber job for me was I did a lot more than most people. I figured because I was cleaning a lot more cars and doing stuff, I deserved a little bit of commission on the way through. That's totally unethical and immoral. I don't know if I ever did that if it comes to that.

Brendan: You just said on the world stage, Toby. What was your warranty like on your kites?

Toby: Nothing. There was zero warranty. I already sold four or five. I was in boarding school and I sold toast. I sold a lot of toast. I bought a toaster.

Brendan: Entrepreneurial mindset from way back.

Toby: Correct. Every day, they would give us these old crusts. The food is disgusting and a big tin of disgusting jam. We could get as many crusts and jam as we wanted to. All I did was buy a half pound of butter. My parents gave me a toaster for Christmas. I would sell it back in those days for a penny a slice.

I more than tripled my pocket money. Of course, I ate a lot of toast because I was always hungry. I ate my own product. I also bought jars of Vegemite because kids love Vegemite. There you go. Make money before you are 10. I was 9–10 at the time.

Brendan: A good investment strategy, mate.

Toby: Good. 

Brendan: I want to ask something else just on these solutions. When you're talking about the individual again, there's so much good change that happens from the bottom up. I'm a 40-plus person as we've said numerous times. I'm in this category where I could have ageism against me. What can I do to keep my mindset fresh or to help drive this change up?

Also from a government perspective, governments listen to change coming up the chain. If people aren't happy about something, then you say, well, they want to be really reelected or not. A lot of it depends on what the general public is thinking about them. What can I do? What can others do who are in that age group to keep the mindset fresh and create change?

Toby: I've written a few articles and stuff on how to start businesses and so on. I'm working with someone who will be doing that as part of what we do. I won't be doing that anymore because I was in marketing for 10 years and our clients were SMEs. I went from recruitment to marketing and now back to recruitment, essentially.

For individuals, I've got two free books. They're online, they're on Kindle, and you can have them. If you want a copy, you just got to email me. You'll be sharing my email address, presumably. One is aimed at employers and how to recruit great people. If you want to change governments and employers, they really need to understand how to recruit better.

All the way through that, even though it wasn't written originally, I published that book in 2005. Both books are 2005 and I rewrote them last year. It wasn't written originally for older people, but I've added a bit in. Almost everything about recruiting better is anti-discrimination. If you discriminate, you're cutting off your nose just to spite your face. There's no point.

If you are a misogynist and you are a racist, okay, bad luck in business. It's bad. The other book on how to find a job, absolutely critical. There's a big chapter on resumes. There's a big chapter on preparing for interviews, in which almost no one writes that side of things. There are lots of little booklets on resumes and the interview itself. What about the follow-up after the interview?

Absolutely, there are so many key tips in there. You follow-up after the interview. At the end of your thank you email, you say something along these lines. Thanks, John. I really enjoyed meeting with you. I'll be in touch next week to discuss the suitability of my application. What does that do? I only got two of those in my entire recruiting career. Even when I published the book, I still didn't get them.

I have a meeting, I got to go, the boss is going to ring me. This is what recruiters think. This is what they do. They're going, oh, God, he's totally wrong for the job, what am I going to say? They've got to have something prepared. They got to email quick, smart, and say, sorry, but the other candidates was stronger. Every single one of those emails is alive, by the way.

The reason why you got rejected is because they were stronger, because they were younger. They weren't male or female. They weren't disabled. They weren't gay and they weren't dark skinned. That's why.

Let's say 95% of all of them are just lies and then people get so frustrated. You as a candidate get so frustrated. I have done this job for 10 years. I am really good at it. Why can't I get an interview? You will never get feedback from a recruiter.

There's only one way to get good feedback that will help you in your job search and it's a very simple thing. This is probably my biggest tip. First of all, put that thing into the thank you email. The second one is you send and then when you get the rejection, you write, I'd like to give you a call to discuss in what areas I could improve on to get such a job in the future.

In my first couple of weeks in recruitment, I made this mistake. My client and my boss just said, Toby, we pay you to keep these bastards away from us because they got a ranting phone call from the candidate, because I had told him that he didn't have the right skills, that he was just so wrong in various ways.

I was polite, but basically, he didn't have what it needed. He just said rubbish, and hung up on me, and then rang my big client who was a very major corporation, and rang my recruitment boss. I was being paid to keep these ranting people away from them. That's one of the things they pay us for as recruiters. Never ever give honest feedback, unless they ask very politely.

Brendan: Some people do find feedback challenging. Toby, I know that I've given you some questions in relation to this episode and it's fantastic. There's one question I actually missed off my run sheet that I share with people. I'm going to put you right on the spot, mate. I always like to ask my guests this. What's the one thing that's had the greatest impact on your own leadership journey?

Toby: Learning to listen. Here we go. When I was doing my MBA out of the Australian graduate school, we had a thing called interpersonal skills. I assumed that because I was very popular, noisy, and one of the smartest kids on the course—I was 28–29 at the time and we had to form into workgroups—I discovered that no one wanted to be in my workgroup.

I became good friends with this lecturer over the next few years. He then asked everybody, why does no one want to work with Toby? I was stunned. I was practically in tears. I just assumed that, why wouldn't they? I'm still friends to some of these people, by the way. We had a reunion last year.

Well, because you dominate everything. You think you're smarter than all of us. You talk too much. You don't listen. Why do we want to work with you? They were politer than that, but that's what they said.

When I'm doing emotional intelligence with my interns and my staff over many years, we have feedback sessions, and I keep getting told I don't listen enough. The biggest thing for my leadership was less talking, more listening. So I'm not going to shut up.

Brendan: Very well said, Toby, and fantastic lesson to learn. We've spoken a lot about that point on The Culture of Things podcast previously for leaders. Yes, far more listening, less talking and less telling.

Mate, I've thoroughly enjoyed today. It's been a fantastic conversation. Great to learn from you. I love the candidness, the openness, the directness, that you take with this topic. We've had some previous guests recently around some fairly (I guess) topics that are—I can't think of the right word—challenging for people to take on some of these topics.

I appreciate you coming on The Culture of Things and sharing these things. You know what? There's a person who you remind me of, which I love, and I think he's fantastic. Not that I know this guy personally, but you remind me of John Cleese. Has anybody ever said that to you?

Toby: No. The Ministry of Silly Walks.

Brendan: If the ages and things don't work out, I reckon there's a double situation there with John Cleese, mate. I think you've got that sort of direct and dry sense of humor to go with it, mate. Again, thank you very much for being a guest on The Culture of Things podcast, sharing ageism, and how we can all help remove these barriers of ageism in the workplace. Thank you very much. I appreciate you very much.

Toby: Brendan, thank you. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

Brendan: Pleasure.

Have you ever excluded someone from being interviewed or hired because of their age? Maybe you've been the one excluded. You may have experienced ageism or being the one being ageist and not even know it. If you're a 40-plus-year-old man or a 38-plus-year-old woman, and have applied for a role, and never received an interview, there's a chance you have experienced ageism.

If you're a woman, you may have also been impacted by appearance ageism. This is something I've never really considered before. Based on the figure Toby quoted from Deloitte research, ageism is a pandemic costing the Australian economy over $60 billion per year. Given this figure in Australia, each of us should be doing more to combat ageism.

Statistics show the ageing population is also increasing globally. It's not just an Australian problem, it's a global one. As a leader, what will you do to combat ageism? These are my three key takeaways from my conversation with Toby.

My first key takeaway, Leaders don't subscribe to ageism. They'll see all people's hidden strengths and be determined to leverage them irrespective of age or appearance. Leaders know there's a lot of talent in the ageing community that isn't being utilized. Leaders want to hire the best. That's why they don't subscribe to ageism.

My second key takeaway, Leaders can laugh at themselves. Toby's a super fun guy who's enjoying life. Organizing a living wake for his birthday is a great example of his fun character. Being able to laugh at yourself requires you to be comfortable in who you are and what you can do. All the people and leaders know who they are and what they can do, which is why they often have little problem laughing at themselves.

My third key takeaway, Leaders do less talking and more listening. As Toby said, when he spoke of what has impacted his leadership journey the most, learning to listen more was a confronting experience for him. Despite this, it's one that has stuck with him and he works at it every day. Like a true leader, he's bettering himself constantly and learning to do less talking and more listening.

In summary, my three key takeaways were: Leaders don't subscribe to ageism, leaders can laugh at themselves, and leaders do less talking and more listening. 

If you want to talk culture, leadership, or teamwork, or have any questions or feedback about the episode, leave me a comment on the socials or contact me at thecultureofthings.com. Thanks for joining me, and remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation.


Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.