The ‘Great Resignation‘ is a global phenomenon that has taken hold in 2021, threatening to undermine the workforce and businesses themselves.
With the pandemic playing a role in employees reassessing their career and priorities, the trend of workers leaving jobs has now reached a peak, with UK job vacancies in November reaching the highest level since records began in 2001 – 1.1 million from July to September – 20 years earlier.
The professional services sector is one that has been significantly impacted by this phenomenon, with the sales industry being hit particularly hard. This isn’t surprising, given that this industry was turned completely upside down by the pandemic, having previously operated through in-person meetings, handshakes, and international travel.
Xactly’s State of Global Sales Enterprise Performance report in 2021 found that across more than 2,000 revenue leaders in the US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany, 58% of sales decision-makers reported that salespeople departed their teams at higher rates than normal over the past twelve months.
When companies lose key salespeople, the consequences can be dramatic from a productivity and financial perspective. On average, it takes nearly 3.2 months for new salespeople to ramp up to full productivity with a significant financial investment to boot.
Hire Velocity estimates that it’s 1.5-2 times what a business would typically pay a rep to replace them. Businesses cannot afford to be facing high levels of attrition amongst sales teams as the economy is recovering post-pandemic.
Much has been said in the HR sphere about employee burnout contributing to the ‘Great Resignation’: hybrid working has destroyed work-life balance, creating an ‘always on’ mentality and the pandemic has made many reassess their priorities and career paths.
Respondents in Aon’s Global Wellbeing Report (2021) reported burnout as one of the top five employee wellbeing issues facing organizations today.
However, HR teams cannot solve this problem alone. And they can’t solve it without a key piece of the puzzle: data.
Why HR needs to be tech-savvy
Data is the most valuable resource a company has. However, this only applies if leaders are using data in an efficient way with the right solutions. HR must get onboard with actionable data and embrace wider technology, in order to understand the experiences of the workforce.
Technology is key in job retention. The workplace has been digital for years, with records, activity, and communication taking place online within the professional services field. This is even more so the case with the widespread adoption of hybrid, and deskless working. With this in mind, HR leaders need to be attuned to how well, or not, digital workplace solutions are functioning and empowering employees to work more productively and successfully.
In the sales field, the last decade has seen the 360-degree customer view become the standard data model for companies. This model utilizes an arsenal of solutions and pieces of technology to gather and store all customer information in the same place.
Surrounded by so much data, salespeople can become overwhelmed and unable to identify and leverage insights in a meaningful way. Rather than helping, often an abundance of tools and platforms clutter the seller’s mind and creates anxiety.
With this affecting employees’ wellbeing and job satisfaction, this dilemma becomes the responsibility of HR. HR leaders must advocate for the workforce to have access to the right technologies, whether that be AI (Artificial Intelligence) to enhance decision making, or consolidated platforms to simplify processes.
HR teams must first educate themselves and then collaborate with IT departments to encourage and implement next-gen solutions, in order to help employees work at their optimum level.
Collaboration more generally must be a key focus for HR teams in order to provide the best holistic experience for employees, whether that be with sales, IT, or finance teams.
Getting on board with data
Real-time data can be used to combat attrition amongst the sales workforce and keep employees in the fold.
First, by using AI to capture and analyse data on sales rep activity in real time, leaders can predict attrition levels and act pre-emptively to rectify this. Pay and performance data are crucial in identifying certain reps who are at risk of leaving.
By implementing the appropriate leadership for underperforming salespeople, managers can intervene at an earlier point to improve performance.
With lagging performance often a sign of discontent and disillusionment, this is a great opportunity for HR teams to address any dissatisfaction on a more pastoral level.
Further than just addressing immediate signs of turnover, having an extra layer of AI-leveraged insight into performance allows managers to guide employees more helpfully and efficiently.
Being able to set benchmarks using precise data, and measuring certain accounts or deals against this, enables managers to identify exactly where employees need help and training.
The second way in which data should be utilized to combat attrition is through compensation and incentive programs. The sales world is famously driven by commissions made through closing deals; however, this system requires a refurbishment. With the workplace having undergone digital transformation, compensation and incentive plans need to follow suit.
Traditionally, sales reps are paid for the deal after the sale has already been made. However, if they do not know how much they are getting paid until weeks later, this will not effectively motivate reps, as they won’t know how much they stand to gain from closing a deal.
Giving sales reps instant visibility over their compensation just before the point of sale, based on real-time analytics, is far more effective in encouraging successful deals. Not only will a flexible and dynamic digital incentive scheme enhance the employee’s productivity and satisfaction, but it will also have a large cumulative effect on the wider revenue resiliency of the business.
Whilst this example is sales-specific, the principle of modernizing compensation, driven by a data-led approach rather than gut feeling or ‘how it’s always been done’, applies to the whole workforce, regardless of specific function.
These methods may initially seem to be within team managers’ remit of responsibility. However, it is up to HR leaders to understand the benefits of data-driven approaches and next-gen technologies, and campaign for their deployment.
The modern HR leader is one who understands the importance of technology on the wellbeing, and therefore turnover, of the workforce.
Tackled with the task of combating the ‘Great Resignation’, HR decision-makers must advocate for the rollout of solutions to optimize employee productivity, as well as technologies that fully leverage data to predict and prevent attrition amongst the workforce.