HR, in collaboration with sales leadership, needs to take proactive measures to keep their sales professionals engaged. This includes making sure sales leaders are properly focused on career development (which requires a current or updated career framework). Sales reps often feel there isn’t a clear path toward career growth. When employees aren't challenged or motivated to move to the next level, higher turnover is inevitable. With so many reps performing below quota, HR needs to consider other measures of success, in addition to the company's quota-setting and adjustment approach. This is a talent management issue that’s contributing to high turnover and lengthy recruiting cycles. And sales leadership can’t address the issue without HR's help.
To maintain engagement and provide career flexibility and continued development to high-potentials, we observe more companies promoting employee mobility across functional areas. The concept makes sense on many levels. For one, not all employees want to climb the career ladder or manage people in their designated function. Secondly, some employees benefit in their current function by gaining skills in a related function. Finally, engaged workers almost universally seek new challenges and skills. But traditional rewards systems aren't always flexible in enabling effective employee mobility programs (for example, should the high-performing salesperson take a cut in pay when moving to a role with less incentive upside?). We view internal mobility as an area where more companies will spend time trying to get it right.
Aside from investing in new-hire training programs and ongoing developmental training, companies can manage turnover by conducting comprehensive exit interviews to uncover aspects of the sales job that may be causing a disconnect with employees and evaluating the company's hiring practices to see if it is attracting high performers that fit within the company's culture.
Once the source(s) of the turnover problem are identified, HR, in close partnership with sales leadership, finance and compensation managers, can work on solutions. However, management should not be surprised by an uptick in sales turnover and compensation spend given the current economic landscape and pace of technical innovation.