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Engagement & Performance

Don't 'Dis' the Disengaged - make it part of your staff engagement strategy

A lot of time and money spent improving sales and customer service is focused on employees who are deemed “engaged”. Those sitting outside this definition will no doubt attract the label of ‘poor performers', ‘laggards', ‘disinterested' and be viewed as a “cost”.

How often are engagement and incentive programmes run that primarily address the top and mid performers? How many times is the basis of a corporate staff engagement strategy “one size fits all”? Here is food for thought: If you knew that the ‘disengaged low performers’ could deliver more incremental revenue than many of the ‘engaged’, would you consider alternative engagement and incentive structures and planning?

A study from BI WORLDWIDE's employee engagement and incentive programmes shows the benefit of spending time doing just one, straightforward and common-sense thing can be immense. That one thing is segment, segment, segment! By segmenting the audience into peer groups and then adjusting performance requirements and rules to be relevant to those groups, the pay-off from time spent understanding audience behaviours and performance levels is potentially huge.

A cross section of client sales employee engagement and incentive programmes were analysed by our Research, Analytics and Business Intelligence team, broken into quintiles, and the before and after results were then compared.

In summary, the lowest performing quintile:

  • Delivered the best relative performance improvement (+32%)

  • Generated the second largest incremental revenue contribution by value (22% of the total)

The two lowest performing quintiles (compared with the mid and second best performing quintile combined):

  • Delivered 27% more incremental hard currency sales by value

  • Improved their sales by more twice as much (+22% vs +10%)

So, why is this?

  • The lower performers have a higher performance latency – the scope for improvement is greater

  • Paying attention and planning for their performance levels ensures that, irrespective of their training, skill, tenure in the business and other factors, they can WIN

  • Goals are relevant, achievable and within reach

  • Typically the number of people in lower performance segments is considerably greater than mid and high ones

Always segment and let peer groups compete with each other.

The lessons for incentive design and focus?

Always segment. Analyse sales behaviours, create like-for-like performance segments; in other words compare apples with apples, not oranges!

Let peer groups compete with each other. Never assume the profile of employee or channel sales performance is normal – it is very, very rare to come across a normal distribution, hockey sticks prevail! Like many things, getting under the skin of sales behaviours can be time consuming. However, undertake to do so and the payback is potentially far, far greater. Both in terms of revenue for the business, but also in terms of costs saved*. After all, those tagged 'low performers' are often the first people companies let go when market conditions toughen.

*Research estimates replacing employees can cost 30-50% of the annual salary of entry level employees, 150% of middle level employees, and up to 400% for specialised, high level employees!  Plus research from CIMA shows it takes 18 weeks for an ‘operational’ employee to reach full effectiveness, and 29.5 weeks for a ‘senior manager’.

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