Agencies who retain ‘toxic’ staff lose right to claim they are value-driven, trainer says



The boss of a training firm has accused agencies of running sub-standard recruitment programs and for hanging onto “toxic” members of staff too long.

Richard Wentworth-Ping, founder of Wentworth People, told a conference that too many companies still hire staff based on a “gut feel” when more vigorous processes should be in place.

He added that businesses who tolerate disruptive employees – even if they are performing well and hitting targets – have no right to call themselves a value-driven organisation.

Addressing the Secrets of Agency Excellence masterclass in Sydney this week, Wentworth-Ping urged delegates, many of them agencies, to be more choosy about who they employ.

“We need to be a lot more discerning about who joins our businesses,” he said. “I see this so often, companies tolerating a really piss poor recruitment and selection process. They don’t train their managers to interview and recruit properly.

“You could use recruitment agencies – there are some very good ones out there – but ultimately it’s a decision that has to be yours and I don’t think the briefing of recruitment agencies is done well enough.”

Interviews are often haphazard which can end up with the company selecting the wrong candidate, he said.

“We still go too much on the gut feel. It’s often a coffee with an unstructured interview which in unfair and inconsistent for the people you are bringing on. And then you wonder why you have problems?

“I see far too few agencies who invest in a proper bona fide dedicated resource to talent and people.”

The ideal employee is one who hits targets but who also follows the values of the company, he said, while those who may be struggling in their role but who also identify with the values deserve a second chance, possibly in a different role within the organisation.

The problem area is those who perform well but who are disruptive and don’t follow the values set down by the CEO.

“Why do companies keep them? I have heard time and time again because the client likes them,” Wentworth-Ping said. “They are toxic in the business but the client likes them. They have kind of gone feral  but they need that client.”

Such an attitude means companies forgo their right to claim they have values, he said.

“I get it but please don’t tell me you are a value driven organisation and please don’t come and ask I how do I fix my culture because you are not going to like the answers which will be around leadership,” he said.

Wentworth-Ping also urged firms to pay more attention to new staff during their first three months in the job. That period is crucial to the employee “engaging and connecting” with the company and its values.

“The first 90 days is really important and I don’t think enough agencies pay attention to a proper attachment and on-boarding process,” he told the conference. “Seventy per cent of learning is done on the job and only 10 per cent in the classroom.

“People think I’ll chuck some money at the problem and a bit of time and it will be sorted. No it won’t. A lot of work needs to be done outside of the classroom.”

Steve Jones 

Secrets of Agency Excellence comes to Melbourne next Tuesday, December 2. For more details and to get tickets click here.


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