How can I improve retention of key staff?

We are a successful growing business and are in the top five companies servicing our market. While our products are tried and tested, staff turnover among my sales team is very high. Apart from the sales director we have no one who has been with the business for more than 12 months. How can I go about improving retention?


A. Alison Williams of FDS Group writes:

Replacing staff costs you money and productivity so it’s crucial to understand your high churn. Therefore, you should carry out comprehensive exit interviews with each person yourself. This will help you to isolate issues that could make a difference when it comes to retaining staff.

For the exit interview you must be open and listen. Start with an honest look at both the company and managers. Check that the firm has a good name for delivery and after sales service, and find out whether your product stands up to competition, in terms of pricing and clear USPs.

You should look at whether your sales team is enthusiastically led. Do they feel valued and listened to? They need to believe that they are the lifeblood of the company, so their suggestions should be listened to and implemented when appropriate.

If all the above are in order, then your sales people could be leaving for a number of reasons. For example, because they can earn more elsewhere, there are arguments over commissions and payment, their route for progression isn’t clear or they are bored.

Every member of staff should have a regular one-to-one with their senior manager to establish personal key performance indicators. You should also establish company goals for achievement and financial reward. For example, an annual bonus or perks, such as a pension after six months or private health care, might encourage people if they compare well with your competitors. And finally, offer training to help people make the next step up the career ladder, showing you appreciate them and recognise their ability.

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