With a challenging economic climate affecting all industries, from manufacturing to finance and everything in between, sales leaders often have to make difficult workplace decisions. For example, you may have to decide between pay cuts and layoffs, or whether to continue reward and incentive programs even though your cash flow is tight.
Chances are, one of the toughest decisions you face is how to handle your recruitment and retention plans. These turbulent times, with continued U.S. job losses, have resulted in sales employers continuing to be cautious with their headcount plans.
CareerBuilder’s Q2 Sales Job Forecast
CareerBuilder’s Q2 2009 Sales Job Forecast found that many sales employers are holding off on staff expansions and focusing efforts on keeping current headcounts as they navigate through a tough economy. While 14 percent of sales employers said they plan to increase the number of full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter, 62 percent plan to keep staffing levels the same.
While many sales employers plan on keeping staff levels constant throughout this quarter, there will likely be some challenges to maintaining staff in the coming months.
Layoffs. Some sales employers may be adding staff, and others are aiming to maintain their current employee levels, but in the current economy, some may be tasked with implementing reductions.
Twenty-six percent of sales leaders we surveyed said they laid off full-time, permanent staff members in the first quarter of 2009. The good news is that not as many foresee having to perform layoffs in the current quarter; 15 percent of employers reported that this was in their plans for the current quarter.
Cuts in perks and benefits. In addition to layoffs, another challenge to maintain staff in this economy is due to cutbacks in perks and benefits. Let’s face it: Managers are looking for ways to curb operating expenses. One way to do curtail costs is by cutting back on special perks and extras; 40 percent of sales employers report that there will be cuts in benefits or perks at their organizations this quarter. Sales leaders are planning to make cuts on the following perks:
• Bonuses - 20 percent
• 401(k) matching – 7 percent
• Less comprehensive medical coverage – 6 percent
• Coffee, tea, condiments – 6 percent
• Employee incentive trips – 5 percent
• Wellness benefits – 3 percent
How do these cutbacks affect the retention of great sales employees? It means that you may have to rethink their retention and incentive process, but in a good way; it presents an opportunity to come up with creative ways to reward your sales standouts without breaking the bank. That might mean more vacation time, half-day Fridays, or other wallet-friendly ideas such as:
• Amp up internal communication. When people succeed or go above and beyond, let their colleagues know through regular communications, such as a weekly e-newsletter. Consider leveraging the power of social media too. Use an internal communications service like Yammer or social networking site like Facebook to create an office “group” and make sure employees know when they are doing well.
• Keep it light. Office camaraderie can have a very positive effect on worker motivation and retention. Organize an office pot luck, after-hours sports, or other activities to keep employees engaged in a fun way.
• Award employees. Sometimes a small token of appreciation, such as a printed award, gift certificate, or a dinner out can make employees feel valued—especially in difficult times.
As you weather the storm this quarter by maintaining staff levels and coming up with more economical motivational tools, you should also look optimistically to the future. Keeping top talent is of the upmost importance, and you must have your eyes on what’s next. While you don’t know exactly when the economy will turn around, you do know that you will prosper if you have the right people when it does.
John Smith is senior vice president of sales at CareerBuilder