A recent global study about employee engagement reported that the vast majority of employees are disconnected from their jobs. In a talent marketplace where sales representatives are the hardest position to recruit for, sales managers must do all they can to keep members of their sales team engaged. The good news is that sales managers hold the key to engagement.
Global wave of low employee engagement
Low employee engagement is a big challenge for organizations across the globe. Results from the latest global survey on employee engagement "State of the Global Workplace" revealed that only 13% of employees - globally- are engaged at work. This means 87% of employees are not passionate about their jobs nor feel a connection to their employers.
In the Nordic countries, although almost all reported engagement levels above the global average, the numbers are still quite disturbing. Denmark topped the list with 21% followed by Sweden and Norway with 16%. Finland employees were the least engaged among the Nordic countries with an alarming low 11%. Despite low engagement levels among employees in Sweden, a recent poll shows that the majority of Swedes value their jobs more than leisure time. This suggests that the lack of engagement is not necessarily related to a diminishing work ethic or a negative attitude towards work.
While it is no news that employee engagement challenges organizations across the world, the recent phenomenon is that employees with client facing roles such as marketing, sales and service are the least engaged of all. Do sales and marketing managers have a poor understanding of what motivates their subordinates? Are they falling in the trap of treating all employees alike and failing to recognize that different personalities require different motivational techniques?
Sales, Marketing and customer service among the least engaged
A recent study, "Who's responsible for employee engagement?" showed that employees in customer facing roles were the least likely to recommend their workplace. In summary, these were the main findings: 1) the most experienced employees are typically the least engaged, 2) higher engagement levels where found at highest levels of the organization, 3) engagement levels were lowest in marketing, sales and customer service functions.
By reflecting on the first finding, I am inclined to believe that drivers of motivation and engagement do not remain stable over time. Instead, they tend to naturally fade and change. This requires sales, marketing and service managers to constantly evaluate if the motivational techniques previously applied on their subordinates are still valid. Is it possible that low engagement levels were a direct result of sales managers' lack of awareness about changing motivations. If we assume for a moment that failure to understand changing motivations was the problem; what can managers do to solve the issue? ProSales has a model that helps managers to segment their sales force based on individual motivations and personalities. ProSales research recommends sales managers to:
- Understand salespeople's motivations and personalities
- Match salespeople's motivations and personalities with corresponding sales roles and customer purchasing strategies.
- Steer and adapt rewards and incentive models to salespeople's motivations and personalities
Regardless of what drives engagement, one thing is certain: it has a direct impact on business performance. In particular, it impacts profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction and employee retention.
Why should sales managers care about employee engagement?
Multiple studies have shown that organizations with high levels of employee engagement are more likely to do better than those with low employee engagement. One example is a recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. Researchers identified a direct correlation between business outcomes and employee engagement. This evidence should encourage sales managers to do all they can to maintain engagement levels high. After all, it's hard to think of any other functional manager more interested in improving customer satisfaction and business outcome than sales managers. Furthermore, an engaged sales force minimizes the risk for sales force turnover. Losing a memeber of your sales team means you will the need to find a replacement. And - as we mentioned in a previous article - sales representatives are one of the hardest job families to recruit for.
Sales managers are key to retaining competent talent
Did you know that poor relationships with immediate managers is the main reason behind employee turnover? If it is true that employees don't quit their jobs but leave their bosses, then it is time for sales managers to develop ways to systematically recognize and reward subordinates' efforts. After all, employees value managers' recognition more than salary and opportunity for career advancement. All these evidence suggests that sales leadership and coaching skills are more important than ever. Here is a list for you to get inspiration on common methods to engage sales teams:
Ph.D. Markus Ejenäs, ProSales Institute