Madison Performance Group

Reward programs can be highly effective tools in driving the two things that matter most to businesses right now: engaged employees and sales force effectiveness.

When designed and implemented correctly, employee recognition programs elevate engagement levels, which, in turn, drive improved organizational outcomes. Workers who are emotionally and intellectually committed to their jobs are significantly more productive, customer-focused, collaborative and innovative in the way they go about their business.

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It’s fairly common to assume that the motivational focus of HR and sales operations executives are separate and distinct. That’s probably why vendors in the reward and recognition space offer distinct platforms to each group. But a recent paper talks about The Great Balancing Act of Sales and HR and suggests that the commonality of purpose between these two disciplines is growing.

We are already seeing a bigger role for HR at the sales compensation planning table.  While sales leaders are putting together plans that reward top performers (and their teams), HR is busy monitoring the impact rule structures may have on any unexpected attrition of good to average performers who felt left out of the equation.

We also see HR chiming in on the issue of sales rep engagement—something we have talked about extensively here. HR knows that if goals and objectives are not presented in a manner that clarifies someone’s role in the organization than engagement fades and that’s not good for anyone.

HR is becoming more active in making sure that sales results don’t come at the expense of company principles or brand attributes. In this regard, HR is busy working with sales (and marketing for that matter) to make sure that the customer’s overall experience reflects the company’s core values.

Why bring all of this up now?  Well, in order for the different stakeholders within an organization –like HR and sales and marketing—to have symbiotic relationships, it’s important that they work from the same reward’s platform. Having the ability to construct, communicate, reinforce and monitor behaviors requires an integrated effort.

Can agents from different disciplines still cooperate in a rewards environment that has them operating from separate platforms? Well, yes, I guess so. But why would you want to?

Think about the advantages of having everything in one place and then give us a call. We will show you how to get the consistency you need so that no one group’s strategy gets lost (or misunderstood) across programs.

The other day I was “voluntold” to be on a project. No that’s not a typo. It’s a new expression (albeit tongue and cheek) I’m hearing more and more within companies. It’s used to describe how people are “volunteered” to be put on projects without any real say. Since many people in businesses today have absolutely zero slack in their schedules; it’s basically like being ordered to give up some free time. You could see how that might be met with some resistance.

In an age where we are all tapped out, getting people to give up their discretionary time is a tough thing to accomplish. So many demands are made of us throughout the day (either at home or at work) that it’s difficult for people to say yes even if they wanted to. Being “voluntold” puts a cramp in their schedule.

So what’s the best way to alleviate the time-tensions we all face?  Recognition is the answer.  Acknowledging employees who have given up their time and who enthusiastically contribute both their ideas and their efforts is essential.

Keep in mind you don’t want employees to resent being on a project or approaching any extra work with a negative sense of its value. Recognition does so many things to put a positive spin on ancillary assignments. It acknowledges the sacrifices people sometimes make to pitch in, it motivates them to engage and speak up with an idea and it rewards them for their efforts and insight in making the task come to fruition.

So the next time you feel like you need to “voluntell” someone to work on an extra project, remember recognition is an easier way to get people to want to work on additional assignments.

The latest edition of Workforce Magazine reports that employees are working more; that they are “stressed and pressed” on the job and that companies that ignore them run the risk of losing them.

At Madison we have been saying just that for some time now.  A few years ago I published, Why Recognition Still Matters: The Argument for Employee Retention and Productivity Programs in a Soft Economy. In it I stressed that many workers are doing more out of fear than anything else. I pointed out that while layoffs and downsizing had helped organizations experience a windfall of “per-employee productivity” and helped profits, they had also placed a strain on employee morale and engagement. I cited a survey that indicated employees felt overworked and under appreciated. I even called people who were “lucky enough” to have jobs “over employed” on national television. I cautioned that people were working hard not because they wanted to, but because they had to keep their jobs and that the whole “over employed”, hyper-productive employee dynamic was far from sustainable.

I’m glad to see that Workforce agrees. I just hope the companies out there that rely on people to be their biggest source of competitive advantage feel the same way. Many companies have a false sense of security about employee retention right now and that’s a huge mistake.

Let’s face it; businesses have experienced a strong post-recession growth period. Profits are strong and market valuations are at an all-time high. To maintain those high levels of productivity, organizations will need to rely less on employee anxiety and more on recognition techniques that are proven to prolong an employee’s desire to contribute. Without taking action now, employers will be left with a “recession-damaged” workplace culture populated by disenfranchised employees who will leave for new pastures at the first opportunity.

The battle for good talent is already underway. We see it in the hiring numbers every month. Not the net-new jobs, those are still soft. We see it more in the number of people switching jobs. Those figures are alarming to companies looking to retain top talent.

Even if you are able to hold onto your best revenue producers, the demographics of the talent pool will require that companies hire younger sales people. Think about it,  ten thousand baby boomers retire every day! To keep pace with future demands, you are going to have to reach out to millennials for all types of work assignments—including sales.

Younger sales people are not prepared for sales jobs even though many take them as a first assignment right out of school. Sixty six percent of all college grads enter the workforce in a sales job, but less than one percent of all colleges have a sales learning track.

You can test applicants all you want for their selling aptitudes and you can probe personality traits during interviews but none of that will assure that younger sales people will hang in there when things get tough early on. Maybe your service anniversary program can help?

What? Service anniversary and sales? Whats the connection?

I have often said that tenure-based reward programs have value, but should also be reconfigured to serve younger audiences. So how about adding a mentoring element that rewards your more senior sellers for taking the new ones under their wing? Add additional rewards for the boomers who get the younger ones off to a quick start.

Giving established sales people a stake in the selling careers of millennials is one way to quickly tap into all of the wisdom you could only otherwise learn through trial and error. It’s also a great way to celebrate their experience.  Which is what your service anniversary program was designed to do in the first place, right?