Be prepared to handle employee turnover

A certain amount of employee turnover is inevitable in any business. Employees come and go for a variety of reasons, both personal and career-related.

A certain amount of employee turnover is inevitable in any business. Employees come and go for a variety of reasons, both personal and career-related.

Unexpected turnover can be a profit-killing liability and affect the company’s bottom line. On the positive side, turnover can bring new talent, renewed vigor and fresh ideas to a business. Most companies are not prepared to handle both situations.

In this economy, and in this province, companies that rely on a key sales person or expert sales team must be more sophisticated with their recruitment, interviewing and screening processes.

The old adage, “hire for attitude, train for skill” is valid. However, certain personality and communication styles exceed in a sales role better than others. It’s 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 screening process will save you time and money.

A detailed job description that includes key roles, key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance standards is critical to successful hires. Introduce them in the recruitment phase and consistently follow through during the hiring and orientation phases.

Be accurate and truthful. Take time to discuss backgrounds and highlight your future vision for your company before you discuss the job’s potential earnings.

It is extremely important to thoroughly interview each candidate before they are offered a sales position. It’s advisable to have more than one person interview every candidate, and then make a group decision.

It stands to reason that experienced salespeople in similar fields and business sectors would be your first choice. It’s imperative to check all references to determine if a record of performance is authentic.

In the absence of clear hiring criteria, a company may end up hiring those with minimum standards and a drawn out period of trial and error. This happens much too frequently in Central Alberta.

Progressive employee turnover may indicate a larger problem in your business. A root cause can 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 exercise their options and move on.

An A-talent team member is confident in their abilities.

They value trust and are capable of some level of self-management. A company that matches individual key motivators with performance measures will improve overall productivity.

A high-achieving sales person thrives on recognition. Their success is your success. Develop a well defined incentive plan that appeals to specific individuals and rewards achievement.

Help new recruits in the first few months on the job. Earning a salary as they build their sales will help to eliminate the fear associated with a commissions-only position.

Excellence in sales is a combination of talent, experience and company standards. A company that places unreasonable expectations on their sales team, including threats and intimidation, will face a revolving door of personnel.

A well-developed sales training program is a great investment. Ongoing product training and opportunities to polish sales skills will benefit new hires as well as a veteran sales team. Provide opportunities for individuals to achieve their goals and build capacity.

Often sales managers are promoted because of their sales records but don’t necessarily possess the skills needed to coach others. Some A-talent sales people don’t want the headaches of a management role. Evaluate candidates 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.

An owner or sales manager should devote approximately five to 20 per cent of their time to recruitment, training and evaluation management.

Excessive employee turnover may be a symptom of deeper, fundamental problems in the business. When you commit to tackling the root causes of employee turnover, you make 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 johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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