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Is your company an age-friendly employer?

In the world of digital agencies, Journey Digital (Auckland, New Zealand) is a rarity because we are an age-friendly employer.

I spent five years as a recruiter for all sorts of New Zealand agencies – advertising, digital, design, media, etc. Like many other countries, New Zealand has employment law stipulating that you cannot discriminate against any candidate based on various factors, such as race, colour, ethnicity, national origins, sexual orientation and pregnancy. This anti-discrimination law also includes age.

However, it was obvious that ageism was rife and that age was a common factor in briefs I received as a recruiter. Hiring managers would regularly say things such as, “I want an up-and-comer. Someone hungry. Someone with energy. Someone compliant. Someone ‘cheap’. Someone with a lot left in their tank.” The request would usually skirt around employment law, but there was no mistaking the meaning. Sometimes, the hiring manager would make their wishes abundantly clear – law or no law.

I used to say it was almost impossible for a woman over 40 and a man over 50 to find employment in a New Zealand agency. To the ‘older’ candidate, I would suggest that the person consider going ‘client-side’, or start their own business, or ‘pivot’ in their career into a different (more accepting) industry. Does our employment law protect older candidates from discrimination? No, it doesn’t. All the hiring manager has to do is not hire that person and give a generic reason why they rejected their application. It’s very sad.

I was looking at Journey’s employee data, and it hit me that we genuinely hire based on experience and capability, not age. Out of 34 staff members, one-third are 40 years and above. Four of our team are in their fifties – three 50+ are women.

We know and celebrate that older staff members offer knowledge, maturity, reliability, gravitas and productivity that are extremely valuable to our business.

For Journey, “team fit” and finding the right person for the role is a combination of what we call ‘being a radiator’ (having a positive, friendly, solutions-focused attitude); the level the person is at (e.g. junior, intermediate, senior); and having the right capability, skills and experience. For Journey, finding the right person is never about age.

I’m proud of our team, and I challenge other companies to do the same – not just say they do it, but actually do it.


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