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How to Retain Top Sales Talent During the Great Resignation

By Aaron Wagner 9 min read

According to a recently-issued Department of Labor’s JOLTS report, 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January. There were also 11.3 job openings this January, just shy of December’s record. The Great Resignation is showing no signs of slowing down.

At New Home Star, we are thankful that most of our teams have remained steady throughout the pandemic and into this year. We are, however, constantly assessing what we can do better for our employees to keep them satisfied in their roles and living a work life that is worthy of their attention and effort. In today’s professional climate, no organization can afford to be overly comfortable or confident in its efforts to retain top people. It takes effort — a lot of effort. It’s up to leaders to create and maintain behaviors, systems, and processes that allow team members to thrive.

It is common that most engaged employees will also be the most productive and the happiest. To create engaged employees, it’s important that the organization’s goals align with someone's personal goals. That doesn’t mean that these goals need to be identical to achieve results — however, it does mean that someone’s work should satisfy their own needs while still contributing to the success of the organization. When people have the balance between satisfying their own needs and creating success within their organization, it creates the best receipt for high levels of retention. 

Here are a few things that we have found when working to retain team members in today’s working environment.

It starts with onboarding.

Onboarding and interviewing is the first and most important step when making sure that both team members and the organization have a symbiotic relationship in terms of values and goals. At New Home Star, we have worked diligently over the last several months to make sure our systems help us discover if team members and the organization are both a good fit for each other. 

There are two new processes that we have implemented. First, we’ve created a rubric that allows us to look through a person's past experiences to see if their achievements are aligned with the culture of the organization. Meaning, if someone has found success and fulfillment in the past in ways that could be replicated within the organization, then it would be a win to move forward to the next step. 

Secondly, we have dialed in the processes in which we record information during the interview process in terms of a uniform scorecard. For years now, it’s been a best practice at New Home Star for candidates to meet several different team members during the interview process. Creating a uniform scorecard that is centered around a candidate's traits and strengths allows us to ask pointed interview questions that assess if a candidate's values and goals align with those of the organization. The scorecard also allows interviewers from all parts of the organization and throughout the country to remain focused on the items that would help predict future success. Learning if a candidate and the organization have aligned values and goals at the beginning of the working relationship creates an opportunity for a greater chance of hiring the right person that will be more engaged and connected.

Future career success is more valuable than temporary gimmicks.

In a recent Slack survey of 4,700 remote workers, the company found that employees are less satisfied with their sense of belonging when it comes to working remotely. Cognizant found that 93% of Gen Z workers across all countries believe “creating personal connections with managers and coworkers is an important part of belonging.” This Fast Company article does a great job of covering what Gen Z wants most at work right now, and most of it is focused on growth and mentorship rather than the amount of ping pong tables that can be found at the office. 

Instead of in-office perks like free lunches, workout classes, or happy hours we are seeing an increased need from our employees to ensure that they belong within the organization, both in the short term and long term. That sense of belonging is fueled by employee-company goal alignment and the concern that future efforts will translate to personal desired outcomes. Where that organization is headed in the next year, five years, and beyond are all being evaluated by team members.

Transparency is critical to establishing this sense of belonging that employees (and especially Gen Z) seek from their organizations. As a result, we are in the midst of creating greater detail of transparency and visibility within the career path at New Home Star. Understanding the future options available to team members, including internal mobility within the organization, is an important part of the equation when choosing to stay. If employees can see, understand, and trust that the organization in which they work is a conduit taking them to their desired outcomes in life, they will much more likely be motivated to stay.

Conduct quarterly and annual reviews.

At New Home Star, we have quarterly reviews where managers and salespeople are able to connect with each other to track the progress toward shared goals. Of course, metrics surrounding key performance indicators such as net sales and marketing initiatives are discussed, but those KPIs aren’t the only focus of the meeting. During this quarterly review, conversations are also had about the future career of the salesperson, making sure that the individuals’ efforts will help them achieve their desired location within the career path of the company. This one-on-one meeting creates space for connection and mentorship on a regular basis. We have learned that it takes a lot of effort to have these meetings every single quarter. However, we’ve found that making small adjustments regularly is more successful in keeping goals aligned than trying to rebuild a missed connection over a long stretch of time. 

In addition to quarterly reviews, New Home Star also conducts an annual meeting called the Individual Development Plan (IDP). This meeting differs from the quarterly meeting in that it takes a longer look at the strengths and weaknesses of the person in order to create creating a successful plan for the coming year. Many goals take time to achieve. Having this meeting annually allows space for the salesperson and manager to work in unison to create a long-term strategic plan that helps the salesperson reach their vocational goals and dreams.

Make in-person time purposeful.

So much of the global workforce now works remotely. A recent Future of Work study by Accenture found that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model over full-time in the office or full-time remote. Numerous other studies have shown that hybrid working models have translated to higher levels of retention in addition to greater levels of employee productivity. According to a webinar hosted by LinkedIn, working in person should only take place if the goal of that time is collaboration, innovation, or connection.   

At New Home Star, connection is an important part of our organization. During the height of the pandemic, we worked to create as much connection as possible through the use of virtual tools. Now that many parts of the country have adjusted policies, we have been strategic in our efforts to create meaningful in-person connections. Our main points for local connection come through the use of limited team meetings and structured manager visits out in the field. New home salespeople are often carrying the burden of a heightened emotional buyer, and creating places for in-person support and connection has helped individuals navigate that burden.  

Additionally, we are so very excited to be hosting off-site training events again. We know that people are looking to grow and advance their careers, so we are working to hold events that help them reach these goals. Creating in-person off-site training events allows sales associates at New Home Star to gain connections, build collaborative relationships, and have access to new innovative ideas. Doing events only for the sake of events is not worthwhile, but meeting in person, if focused and strategic, can be an extremely useful tool when retaining top talent.

Keep a close eye on the secondary task.

When working to retain top talent, we’ve found it important to get involved with individuals who might be thinking about leaving the team. Be on the sharp lookout for any team members who aren’t completing periphery tasks. Look for times when sales associates start to miss deadlines, attend meetings late, or skip the completion of normal protocols. Someone seriously looking for a different job might be less inclined to complete their tasks at a high level of performance. It’s hard to be in two places mentally at once. Whatever the indicator, it’s important to connect with those team members. Seek to understand the motives behind their actions. Asking the tough questions can help you have the information to better contribute to their success. Taking the time to really connect and understand their efforts can help you address items that could help with engagement, and therefore improve retention.

Put people first.

With the Great Resignation still in full swing, it’s critical that employers focus on their people. The professional workplace models and strategies for employee retention are not the same as they were in years past. Onboard individuals with a focus on how their goals align with the organization. Keep in mind that learning and growing are far more important than short-term perks. Once you have good people on your team, be consistent in the giving and receiving of feedback through planned quarterly and yearly reviews. Additionally, when you bring everyone back together, make sure there is a bigger strategy than just having each other in the same room. Lastly, be on the hunt for those who might leave the organization and allot time to find what might help them become happier and more fulfilled in their position. Taking care of employees through these tools will help retain good people, leading to continual transformation and strengthening of your team.

Originally published Apr 21, 2022 under Explore the latest topics, updated January 23, 2024

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