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Retaining Talent in a Competitive Market

by Dr. Marilyn Manning

How do you keep your most talented sales people and sales managers committed, loyal and motivated? The question has frustrated and even bewildered a growing number of companies and organizations in the past year or two. Our work force and pool of resources of highly skilled, highly trained talent is shrinking.

This is not a new problem. How can we best build the loyalty of these people to keep them motivated and committed to our company?

If your company is like many, it may have recently been through a rash of significant changes like the introduction of entire new product lines or mergers and acquisitions. The culture may be rapidly changing which compounds the problem of building loyalty and retention. Loyalty builds over time. When people feel they are contributing to an exciting product or worthwhile service, their level of commitment increases. Loyalty also increases when people feel respected and acknowledged for what they do.

People want to feel valued and that they are making a difference. We need to recognize each person’s need to feel like they count. Do you let each member on your sales team know how they fit into your company’s ever-changing environment?

Do you know what each of your people want and find most important? A recent study of exit interviews found that money was not the reason good talent was leaving their jobs. They wanted to be part of a worthwhile enterprise, be influential in decision-making, and create and contribute to mutually agreed upon objectives.

Top talent remains loyal when they believe there are chances for professional growth and challenge. We could invest more time planning for these growth opportunities. One specific action is to find cross-functional team projects where your talent can effectively network and work with different teams in the company.

High achievers want to be in contact and dialog with the colleagues they respect. How do we bring the best minds together? Successful people relish the opportunity to learn from each other and communicate on deeper levels.

Build loyalty through team building

One way to build loyalty is through team building, a process to enhance the energy and cohesiveness of a group. It helps focus a group on committing to common objectives, striving for high quality results. Team building is not something that happens in a one or two day workshop. It is an evolving and integrated process. There must be a safe environment to have open, honest communication that is appropriate. Having facilitated team building for fifteen years, I’ve learned that there is no quick fix. Sometimes an outside facilitator can offer a fresh perspective and new strategies.

Team building is a classic way to foster motivation but may not always produce the expected results. The needs and style of any given group must be considered. Some “team” activities designed to build trust may actually erode trust. For example, forcing too much intimacy in dialog about personal matters is inappropriate.

On the other hand, your might try the following activity I’ve used in many team building sessions. Ask each person on the team to write down the biggest challenge they are facing along with the biggest obstacles to resolve that issue.

This activity can build common ground. Next, ask people to discuss their issues in pairs. Then have each person describe his or her partner’s issue to the large group. The group can then work as a team to identify some actions and mutually agreed upon solutions. Team building grows out of working successfully together on real time problems rather than playing some artificial “games” and activities.

Coach through situational strategies

To determine individual’s behavioral or leadership styles, use a reliable measurement, like the Carlsen DISC Personal Profile or Myers Briggs Indicator, This, if handled skillfully, can help you coach and work better with diversity.

One style, the influencer, like to be asked questions about themselves and their experiences. They enjoy getting credit and looking good. They like to be included and feel part of a team.

Another style, the analyzer, likes to figure out how to get things done. They like structure, details and clear expectations and time parameters. They value thoroughness and quality. They like to work with other high achievers that share these values.

The stable supporter is not a high risk taker. They need ample time to make decisions. Minimize conflict for them and keep them plugged into the team. They greatly value committed relationships.

The controller wants to be in charge of change and keeping the team functioning. They need details and facts, but quickly. They are problem solvers and will give a high level of commitment when challenges and stretch goals are presented.

Recognize talent in ways that build loyalty

Besides professional growth, probably nothing motivates more than positive recognition for one’s achievements and contributions. Generous recognition sets the tone in any environment. It reinforces the cultural values and even the purpose of the company. Take advantages of every meeting by recognizing successes. Don’t you often find yourself spending more time correcting faults, mistakes, and problems than you take to acknowledge other’s positive actions and behaviors. Ask team members how they like to be recognized. Often a personal, small recognition can be as meaningful as something monetary. Adjust your means of recognizing to individual styles and preferences.

Studies show that people want more meaning in their work. They want a better quality of life, so find out what they need to enhance the quality of their work environment.

Taking time to coach and mentor pays off. We may need to point out opportunities in their career growth like encouraging specific training. Don’t be a afraid to ask them tough questions and guide them in finding the right path. Help them identify ways to leverage their skills and accomplishments. Encourage or sponsor them for professional organizations. Give meaningful feedback on how they can get ahead and be of more value to the organization.

Catch them doing something right. Then catch them again and again and again.