Early in November I had the opportunity to facilitate a roundtable discussion on staffing and recruiting agency salesperson retention and development at the TechServe Alliance Conference in Las Vegas. Needless to say, my inner nerd was pretty stoked about the opportunity considering that my dissertation topic is on salesperson retention and training in the staffing industry. I came ready to discuss four key areas on the topic but the discussion was so vibrant that our table never made it past the first area of discussion. Before we knew it, our table was the last one left in the room and we had to get back to the convention. Given the passionate discussion, I thought it would be a great idea to share the “rest of the story” with you.
When looking at the issue of voluntary turnover (where your people leave your organization), the associated costs are stark. Depending on where you look, the cost of turnover can be two to three times the annual salary of the person you hired. Data from various industry sources indicates that staffing industry show turnover ranges from 30-60%. Those numbers, even on the low end, represent a huge waste of resources. In the face of such high turnover, many staffing and recruiting agencies have implemented initiatives to fix the problem. While implementing these initiatives is a good idea, they must address the following four core areas in order to be effective: managerial/leadership training, proper candidate selection, employee empowerment, and employee development.
If your staffing or recruiting agency has a turnover problem, perhaps the most cost effective way to fix it is to focus on the leadership/management tier. As the saying goes, people join companies and leave their managers. That saying is backed up by research which points to managerial issues being ranked as two of the top five reasons an employee leaves a firm. Additionally, research has shown that leadership training pays huge dividends when it comes to employee retention. I’ve been lucky in my career not to have to deal with poor leadership but the vast majority of employees don’t have that luxury. Employees rely on their managers to provide the vision and live the mission and values of the company. A critical component of your turnover mitigation initiatives has to focus on making sure your leadership is armed with the tools to retain your best people. Focusing on training at the leadership level is among the most consequential investments you can make and one of the most likely to dramatically change the direction of your organization.
A second piece of the “solving turnover” puzzle has to do with employee selection. When it comes to selecting recruiters or staffing and recruiting salespeople, it is critical that companies use a systematic approach to selection. Whether you are looking for a hunter or farmer personality, you must understand the core skills and competencies of each role and evaluate that throughout the interview process. Additionally, incorporating a diagnostic tool like the Predictive Index, LSI, or other personality assessment should be a central element of your selection process. Furthermore, it is crucial that you use a team/panel interview format AND that one person on the team is tasked with putting the candidate on the spot in order to assess how well they perform under pressure. Lastly, there needs to be consensus on the team. Before bringing someone into the team, you should have wide agreement on the panel that the candidate fits your organization from both a competency and cultural standpoint.
A third and often forgotten element of the “solving turnover” puzzle is the issue of employee empowerment. The level of employee empowerment is directly related to leadership style. The amount of freedom that an employee has on the team depends on the level of control exercised by the leadership. This is where leadership training can play an important role in empowering employees. Team leads should always be looking at how they can get the most out of their people and the best way to get positive results is to get out of the way. If the goal is to retain top talent, leaders must recognize that the team they put together must be given the freedom to reach goals their own way. No top-tier employee will want to stay with a team where there is no freedom to be creative in solving business problems. Similarly, it’s up to leaders to empower employees with the facilities, resources, and tools – such as world-class staffing and recruiting software – necessary to perform their jobs. This reinforces to employees the importance and value of their contributions to solving business problems successfully.
Lastly, once you have the three other pieces in place, you need to make sure that the people you have within your staffing or recruiting agency are being developed. Employee development isn’t just about having a career path; it’s about creating and giving opportunities to move a person’s career forward. In a very general sense, it means creating the opportunity for the employee to drive the direction of the company. In order to do this effectively, you must first know what the employee is passionate about and then empower them to come up with ideas that improve the company from a systems or processes. In the process of doing this, you’re assessing their ability to influence and lead and preparing them for the next step in their career. Even if you don’t have a defined career path, increasing the responsibilities the employee has goes a long way in developing them for future leadership.
Employee turnover, and more specifically voluntary turnover of your top talent, is a crushing problem to deal with. The most critical element of solving the problem is to be honest about addressing the core issues. When you look at organizations with high turnover, you can almost always find significant challenges at the managerial and leadership levels. Fixing problems at the leadership level and then working down from there provides a workable roadmap for turnaround.