Attracting and keeping the best workers during a time of skilled labour crisis
In late August, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released its Business Barometer survey results. Small business confidence continues to grow at a steady pace, and has been since the beginning of the year.
In a close third place behind Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, small business owners in Alberta are more optimistic relative to the other provinces.
Approximately 23 per cent expect to hire staff before year end. That said, more than any other factor, 37 per cent identified the shortage of skilled labour as the most limiting factor to business sales and growth.
In most business sectors, there is a huge gap between the need and the ability to fill positions with qualified people. There is a definitely a skilled labour crisis, particularly in the trades and specifically with experienced sales personnel.
The old adage, “Hire for attitude, train for skill,” is very valid.
However, keep in mind that certain personality and communication styles succeed in a sales role better than others.
It’s often easier to teach product knowledge; more challenging to teach sales.
The expense of recruiting, hiring and training, plus the loss of productivity, has huge impacts on any business.
Taking time to develop a quality hiring process will save you time and money, plus ensure you hire the right person for the job.
The first step is to revisit your vision, goals and objectives for the business.
What’s changed? Do you know where you plan to be in five years?
Then create detailed job descriptions for the positions you actually need to fill. Include key roles, key performance indicators (KPIs) and expected performance standards. This planning is critical to successful hires.
Introduce and discuss all these areas with potential candidates during the recruitment phase. Be accurate and truthful. Take time to discuss backgrounds and highlight your future vision for your company.
Follow through during the hiring and orientation phases.
A well-developed sales training program is a great investment. Help new recruits in the first few months on the job.
The opportunity to earn some salary as they build their sales will help to eliminate the fear associated with a commissions-only position.
Ongoing product training and opportunities to polish sales skills will benefit new hires as well as a veteran sales team. Providing learning opportunities will aide them to achieve their goals and build capacity.
It stands to reason that experienced salespeople in similar fields and business sectors would be your first choice. It’s imperative that you check all references to determine if a record of performance is authentic.
Unexpected turnover can be a profit-killing liability and affect the company’s bottom line.
Progressive employee turnover may be indicating a larger problem in your business.
The root cause may be attributed to a chronic, chaotic working environment. A company with the “throw the mud against the wall and see what sticks” attitude is a constant source of frustration for employees. A lack of vision, planning and processes leads to persistent low morale.
When conditions decline, the first to leave are the A-talent team members. Those that possess transferable skills are most likely to exercise their options and move on.
A high-achieving sales person thrives on recognition. Their success is your success. An A-talent team member is confident in their abilities and usually capable of some level of self-management.
A company that matches individual key motivators with performance measures will improve overall productivity. Develop a well-defined incentive plan that appeals to specific individuals and rewards achievement.
Excellence in sales is a combination of talent, experience and consistency. A company that places unreasonable expectations on their sales team, and uses threats and intimidation, will face a revolving door of personnel.
Often sales people are promoted to managers because of their records but they don’t necessarily possess the skills needed to coach others.
Some A-talent sales people don’t want the headaches of a management role. When promoting internal candidates, evaluate them carefully to determine if there is interest and ability to effectively support and mentor your team.
Set up a customer relationship management (CRM) system and require everyone to use it, from front-end reception through to back-door delivery. Studies indicate that business processes increase productivity in key areas by 50 per cent.
Employee turnover may be a symptom of deeper, fundamental issues in the business. On the positive side, a small amount of turnover can bring new talent, renewed vigor and fresh ideas to a business. Be open to all possibilities.
As a rule, an owner/sales manager should devote between five and 20 per cent of their time to recruitment, training and evaluation management.
Commit to making your business a better place to work, a more productive environment and a more profitable enterprise.
ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 403-340-0880.