Modern Survey President Don MacPherson and I recently delivered a one-hour webinar, Leading Breakthrough Sales Performance. We shared data and analysis from our new research on employee engagement specific to the sales function.
The research has huge implications related to sales performance and growth: Salespeople are markedly more engaged than non-sales employees — but many of them are actively looking for new jobs, and may even leave sales entirely.
First, let’s start with a baseline. What is engagement? Modern Survey defines engagement as the degree to which employees are psychologically invested in the organization and motivated to contribute to its success. When employees are engaged, they contribute discretionary effort and perform better to help the organization meet its goals.
To measure engagement, Modern Survey asks employees whether they agree with the following five statements:
- There is a promising future for me at my company/organization.
- I take pride in working for my company/organization
- I often recommend my company/organization to others as a great place to work.
- I intend to be working for my company/organization for a long time.
- My company/organization inspires me to “go above and beyond” my normal job duties to help the company succeed.
The most recent Modern Survey study found that 16 percent of the workforce is fully engaged. Just 16% of workers are bringing their all to work. To me, that’s pretty abysmal. But, it’s actually an improvement. This is the best engagement level since 2007. There’s still plenty of work to be done to create more engaged workforces.
Elite organizations have 40% of their employees fully engaged, with another 40 percent moderately engaged. That’s a good benchmark — how does your workforce measure up?
Sales: Engaged but looking
Now that we know the state of the overall U.S. workforce, let’s look at salespeople specifically. Salespeople are the growth engine of organizations. If you want to grow, you want an engaged sales team. Our new research looked closely at how salespeople compare with the overall workforce.
Here’s what we found: 23 percent of salespeople are fully engaged, which is remarkable compared to non-salespeople. Salespeople score highly in particular on a sense of their future at the organization and their willingness to refer the organization as an employer.
Some of these results are attributable to the nature of sales. Salespeople — particularly top producers — are brand ambassadors. They buy in to the organization’s product or service. To sell it, they must believe in it. In addition, salespeople tend to be largely autonomous. Success, for them, is black and white — either they’re delivering results, meeting their quota, and hitting the numbers, or they aren’t. An employee’s sense of future is stronger when they know they’re meeting or exceeding expectations.
So, salespeople are more engaged. That’s the good news. But here’s the red flag. Our research found that a whopping 42 percent of sales people are looking for new jobs.
I know from experience that it can take years to recover a mature territory after a top performer leaves. Losing a top producer can be even more devastating to a company’s bottom line than losing a key senior executive. The skill set, momentum and relationships are hard to replace. If your salespeople are “engaged but looking,” your company’s growth and forward progress are in jeopardy.
This data certainly got my attention. Leaders and managers can have a big impact on employees’ (including salespeople’s) engagement. In the video series below, Modern Survey President Don MacPherson and I think through what leaders can do to move the needle on engagement.
Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.