13 Apr 2016

6 Tips to Retain Top Performers

At work, there’s an age old saying: To have and to hold, from this day forward. … Oh, hang on a sec, that’s what people say as they are getting married. It should be used by all recruiting managers though, it makes sense. New staff coming and going can really sting your profit margins, its a time waster also. It takes time and effort as well as costs money to research, interview and vet potential new company members. At best they need invest around six months and many other peoples manpower to recruit and jump start a newby, bringing them up to speed to become a fully contributing member of the team. This initial investment often includes their product/service training, eradicating past bad habits, and more steep learning curves of knowledge that they need to absorb. The last thing you want to happen after investing so much time in these individuals is for them to turn around and quit for another companies slightly higher salary package.

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Ultimately, you expect all your new hires to be grateful of their new found position and come whistling into work each day. Thereby bringing in business and increasing your earnings. However if your business is suffering from RDS more commonly known as Revolving Door Syndrome, you will soon find yourself squandering company profits just to keep things ticking over. Put simply, until you get to the source of your staff retention problems and remedy them, you will just keep losing your profits to the recruitment websites.

Average figures suggest that it takes seven months and around RMB180,000 to find and place a new sales rep into his job role. These costs may be a flash in the pan if your organization is in upward motion. Growth is after all the best issue to be facing so long as you are prepared, however this growth can be crushed if turnover is excessive in your recruiting cost areas, here lies a systemic problem. When the leavers are your top performers moving on to better opportunities you know you really do have a problem. Suddenly as a boss you feel as if you are sinking slowly, frantically trying to plug leaks in your ship which the rest of the crew seem to be jumping out of.

From Outset: Be Honest About Expectations
Just as you want to be completely clear of the new sales rep that you are introducing to your company. So do they need to be sure also of work environment they will be entering. Generally managers are great at selling as they have built in communication abilities that have enabled them to get where they need to be. They can sell the role. However on the new starters first day if they gradually realise that the post that they have signed up to is not what they had bargained for they may grow ever more disgruntled day by day and become cynical, they may even quit within the first few months. This looks bad to your other staff and will also be demoralising and a let down for you. Therefore to avoid this fiasco occurring, it is best to set realistic expectations right from the outset. Ideally at the interview stage when you see qualities in the potential staff member you wish to employ. Don’t talk up the job role. Or the company. Say it how it is. Be aware that this staff member will be one of your team, you are placing them in a position of trust. Trust must be reciprocated. Therefore always be completely honest with prospective hires about the work they will be doing, the progression they can attain if they work hard and also their working environment. Ideally also show them around and introduce them to their team. They may decide it’s not for them at this stage, however that will be far more beneficial to you as you will save time. Also more importantly you will be able to rest assured that when you do place the ideal candidate into the role you will have a more dedicated employee. Be sure to be upfront about the challenging aspects that they may face, how you like it to be and also what to expect from their direct line manager. If they are going to be good they will already be forming their own ideas on how to progress. It is also essential to reaffirm by asking their views on what they have see throughout all the processes above before making a selection.

Setting Realistic Goals and Monitoring Progress
Because sales folks are a competitive bunch, they thrive when you set goals for them. They need to be challenged. The goals need to be attainable though, they should see the carrot and be able to grab it. It is essential also to provide guide them with the resources necessary to reach those goals. Give them what they need so that they can get the ball rolling straight away. Arrange follow up meetings to keep tabs on progress. The initial period is the time that requires the most focus. The more support provided at this stage will become fruitful for the individual members of your team as well as the complete team unit. Arrange one-to-ones thereby opening the lines of communication with your team. This will motivate them and also gently push them to becoming focused, they will see you are serious about this project succeeding and will get on board too if they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. With regular meetings also areas for further development may become apparent.

Establish Realistic Goals and Coaching
Moving on to the topic of coaching … one of the best investments you can make throughout is building your team’s coaching. Surveys and common sense shows that people take jobs for three main reasons, not necessarily in this order: what they will learn, how much they will get paid, opportunities for progression. By signaling to your workforce that they are worth the company money and time spent in investing in they will be far more reciprocating in their contribution to your company. Ongoing learning for all of your team members is essential to keep them happy, they will see it as a perk of their job and even boast about it to their peers. This will quite rightly make them feel good and keep them happy. A happy employee is a productive and healthy employee. They will want to be at work rather than feeling that they have to come in to pay the rent. We have seen it many times before, failing to nurture any employee often results in them looking to other companies who will offer them better opportunity to grow in skill.

Compensation Packages
Money is on the mind of all the best sales reps. Most work on commission. When recruiting sales reps if you ask the question “Are you motivated by money?” and they say NO. Alarm bells should ring. If they work on commission and money is not an incentive as a sales person they are clearly in the wrong place. The top performers are not looking for free office coffee or dress down Fridays. They want to earn and earn it quick. If you provide that for them they will stay otherwise they may move to pastures greener. The targets and packages need to be continually optimised to ensure their interest in achieving them. Continually reexamine your compensation packages, before doing this though ensure that their contract maintains this flexibility for you on an annual basis. As we all know in China there are set points in the calendar where staff tend to leave. Be sure not to fall victim to this. Stay one step ahead of the game. We can help you with this also in the training courses we offer. It requires being continually fully aware of what is being offered at competing organizations. Tiered plans work best especially with top performers, the dangling carrot scenario. Once they get that low hanging fruit they want the bigger one. Ensure it is there for them to grab. When making these decisions run this through the thought and costing process of thinking: How much is the company saving with slim streamlined compensation compared to how much better it could be by splashing out a bit more to keep those valued employees on your side.

It’s not all about money. Finding and developing fun and creative ways to show your team you appreciate them has no boundaries. Focus on your most valuable staff and your company will run far smoother. Motivate them to stay with you and make it beneficial also for those valued staff to become even more valuable by giving them extended responsibility where possible. If and where possible also find the most cost effective and beneficial incentives for them also such as language learning, gym memberships, flex time, additional paid holidays and the like. Often even an in-house concierge works well to build loyalty. These in turn also promote a stress-free happy work environment. If in sales then periodically, weekly, monthly or even quarterly if your teams are far away, meetings should be held. Quarterly meetings should ideally include occasional sales contests where praise is delivered in all the right places, this will motivate your ever determined sales staff to always work to achieve their best.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Occasionally, despite a company’s best efforts to perfect the working environment they will lose top employees. In this case the question to be asked is “Why?”
By the time a member hands in their resignation they have usually found another job so convining them to stay might be hard, although not impossible. The priority here is to establish the reasoning behind it. Ask them why they are choosing to break the relationship. Get them relaxed, relate to their feelings and just find out why. Again this is something that our training covers. When you become aware that they are leaving speak to their supervisors also, many may become defensive at the loss of a member of their team therefore you need to put them at ease too ensuring that you do not demoralise them. Effective questioning and rapport is key at this stage. Softly softly. Find out the reasons why so that it does not happen again or lead to a mass exodus. Often if one influential member leaves others will follow. Be extremely careful. Ideally, the exit interview should be held by an experienced member of the HR team.

Always remember, when it comes to retaining the best employees, it’s one thing to get them to say “I do” however it’s another to hold and keep them.
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