On employee engagement and sales

Employee Engagement and Sales

I’d venture to guess that a lot of people in standard business roles, when they hear a term like “Employee engagement,” they think of a fluffy cloud hovering around the Human Resources department. They don’t know exactly what it is, but it sounds good, and periodically the leadership of the company talks about it — but pfft, you know how leadership can be with the buzzwords. I’ve got meetings and conference calls and things to do. I do real work! I can’t bother with the fluff stuff!

Actually, you can and should.

Lowe’s wrote a report a while back linking the idea of “employee engagement” to actual stone-cold cash — which makes it a little bit more real for the old-school types — and now there’s more research on that topic. Here’s an annual report from CSO Insights — CSO in this case meaning Chief Sales Officer — and here’s a summary of the essential findings on Hubspot. One thing in particular should jump out at you:

In organizations where less than 50 percent of salespeople are engaged, 39 percent of salespeople hit quota.

In organizations where more than 75 percent of salespeople are engaged, 63 percent of salespeople hit quota.

You can quibble with a lot of different things around these stats — for example, “hitting quota” on face — and you could also say that to have 3/4 of your sales team engaged but only 6/10 of your sales team hitting quota isn’t that great. All that is true. But that’s still a measurable difference above — 39 percent hitting quota vs. 63 percent hitting quota could literally be millions of dollars per year, relative to organization and industry. “Engagement,” while it definitely means a lot of different things to different people, is a pretty easy thing to foster, all told.

(The tie between “employee engagement” and “better sales” shouldn’t surprise that many people, honestly — they’re both based on similar ideas.)

If you could do something relatively easy and make millions more dollars, would you do it? Probably, right?

The great challenge for the “millennial workforce,” in my humble opinion, is going to be making sure that issues like “The Value of Employee Engagement” stay at the forefront once millennials start becoming managers and get weighed down with other tasks. Hierarchy probably isn’t going away, and it’s entirely possible that “people-first” millennials will rise up the chain, become managers, and forget their roots (this has happened to pretty much every generation of the American workforce, insofar as I can tell — you get older and your priorities shift, and that applies to work as well as family).

My concern would be that as people rise up and get more responsibility, they’ll become more bottom-line focused. Employee engagement does matter to the bottom line, but it doesn’t matter in a way that’s easy to track, analyze, and metric-ize (the latter is very important to modern business dialogue). If people start forgetting about the value of keeping your employees interested and motivated in their work — again, it’s really pretty simple — then the same problems will continue to resonate throughout organizations.

In sum, say it loud and say it proud:

If your people are happier and understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, they will work in a way that makes you more money. 

Ted Bauer