Talent Management, Variable Compensation and Sales Productivity

As companies attempt to recruit, retain, and develop talent in a highly competitive market, a few important facts should be considered. The Baby Boomer’s continued exodus from the workforce, combined with a relatively robust economy in which unemployment is at a historic low since the great recession of 2008 are driving up compensation demands for employers. Exacerbating this challenge for employers is the demographic impact of Millennials who tend to change jobs (and careers) more rapidly than previous generations. So what should organizations do in light of these trends?

First, they should be creating compensation structures that reward exceptional performance, even as they should reduce the number of metrics on which those employees are measured. Simple, straightforward performance goals related to productivity, sales, efficiency, compliance, and turnover are a few to consider across a variety of roles. Additionally, businesses now eschew annual performance review in favor of performance check-ins. We recommend check-ins are brief, frequent, and ongoing interactions between management and staff during, many of which may include the use of a performance dashboard. In short, those dashboards are like vital signs such as blood pressure, respiration, heart rate which are consistently monitored when healthcare professionals are monitoring patient health. Yet unlike those healthcare monitoring needs, organizational check-ins, should be forward-looking. In such cases, past performance (say for a week, month, or quarter) discussions must include dialogue about what employees should do more of, less of, do better, or do differently in the future. Such check-ins, based on our experience and research should create a culture of both accountability and encouragement.

In their efforts to reward performance, employer’s efforts related to the oft-dreaded annual review and an average salary increase of 3% seem a poor investment of time and money. So while there remains a continued obligation for employers not to discriminate in their compensation programs, establishing measurable performance standards and tying exceptional performance to variable compensation is an important tool in the toolbox of employers. Yet it is important to note variable compensation is meant to be variable. As one company executive puts it:

“Variable rewards based on clearly defined target goals at the individual, departmental and organizational level can change employees’ mindsets from “this is what I need to do to please my boss so I can get a big raise or bonus” to “this is what I need to do to add value to the company,” Rubino said. For incentive metrics to work, “there must be a performance threshold beneath which no payments are made,” he added. “That’s why the program is called ‘variable.’ “

Second, to insure buy-in from their teams, employers should be allowing their team members to weigh-in on how their performance goals are established, allowing for flexibility with regard to the experience and expertise of their team members. Rarely does one size fit all when it comes to performance expectations. That isn’t to say minimum performance standards based on job roles should not be established. But, say in the case of a commercial bank a Relationship Manager I may have the same duties as in many was a more tenured Relationship Manager V. So the loan, deposit, and fee income production responsibilities of each class will vary. And those goals may vary, to some degree, based on the markets in which those team members serve.

To be clear, clear, the responsibility of a sales person is to grow the incremental revenue of an organization. That may mean they have some obligations to help retain clients (as in the case of bankers), but continually growing revenue and the number of clients of the organization should not plateau for any sales professional. Revenue growth is largely what matters when it comes to sales performance and variable compensation, commissions, bonuses, etc. And, in general, the more liberal the variable compensation plan is, the lower fixed salaries should be. In some cases, again, say relationship managers in banking, employees will have non-sales related responsibilities (client retention, portfolio documentation, compliance, supporting corporate values) so their sales may represent a higher portion of their relative compensation than in true sales roles.

Third, if employers want to retain top talent (especially younger talent) those team members must see a path for growth in their expertise and the potential for being rewarded. Yet such rewards need not always be financial. They can include additional responsibilities, inviting them into organizational leadership programs, providing them with a third-party coach or an internal mentor. Millennials, in particular, are concerned about how they can grow professionally and understand how their profession matters in terms of their purpose or intentions about life—and most don’t believe their talents are being adequately utilized. Smart employers identify their promotable talent and those into whom they will pour their energies in an effort to keep them on staff—especially those who are highly productive. Fortunately, such developmental strategies need not be costly. They can be as simple as engaging such team members in strategic projects, allowing them to observe and listen in to dialogue around decision-making, developing internal best-practices or case studies for the benefit of the entire organization.

Finally, we’ve founded wisdom in the adage sometimes you can do more with one big tractor than two little ones. This analogy, when it comes to talent means hiring two lower salaried employees may mean organizations accomplish less than if they hire one higher salaried team member. It’s possible pay two employees $50,000 a piece but get less return on that $100,000, than by hiring a single employee with a $75,000 salary if that individual has more expertise, motivation, leadership ability, and determination than the other two. We call that leverage. Looking for bargains in organizational hiring and talent acquisition strategies can result in a far lower ROI. Smart employers don’t always bargain-hunt.

If you’d like to know more about how Performance Strategies Group works with organizations and individuals to help build meaningful strategic plans, our executive coaching work, or how we collaborate to help them build better leadership and sales processes and skills, contact Principal Consultant, Jim Owens at jim@psghsv.com


Performance Matters: Telling Your Story

“What’s your story?”

It’s a question that’s pregnant with possibilities.  It can be posed as a accusation or as a sincere expression of interests.  But when it comes to telling their “story,” many leaders find it hard to express stories about their organizational culture, mission, challenges or victories.  Such leaders often fail to see the value of a well-told tale when it comes to engaging an audience, resorting to email as a means of so-called “communication” with their stakeholders.  They miss the primary value of story-telling when it comes to communication.  So what’s that?

It’s the opportunity to, as one writer puts it, to “make me care”  as a part of your audience.  When we coach leaders about communication we often have to remind them that they are on a quest to win both the  hearts and minds of their stakeholders.  As leaders, we have to find what is important to our stakeholders and connect with the passions, concerns, fears, or hopes,  and dreams in meaningful ways if we want to engage an audience, a customer, or an employee.  In short, great communicators make people feel a connection with the message they’re hearing.  

Over the years, we’ve asked leaders to share a story about something about their organizational values and mission.  We normally hear vague references to integrity, or hard work, agility, or even how much their organization values people.  But when asked to share an example of how that value has been born out in their organization in the last 30 days, we’re surprised at how few can do so.

So the next time you’re about to write that email, address that audience, or meet with that client, ask yourself one question.  What do they care about?  Whatever message you’re trying to craft will be far more likely to connect if you begin there, rather than if you lead and discuss only what you care about.  We will talk more about this in our next few blog posts as we address how it can help create change in your organization, building your strategic plans, or even how it will improve your sales effectiveness and customer satisfaction.  

Until then, if you’d like to know more about our executive coaching, strategic planning, or leadership and sales process consulting work, email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at jim@psghsv.com.






Performance Matters: Aligning People, Processes, & Policies

Alignment.  It’s not just about getting into your favorite yoga pose properly.

If you work in any large organization, you’ve probably heard the term.  But alignment isn’t just for large organizations.  And while alignment is about getting your vision and and tactics in synch with one another to maximize productivity, it’s not as mysterious a concept as many seem to think.  But there’s a big question to be answered when trying to create more aligned organizations.  So where should we start?

Effective alignment begins with the customer!

It doesn’t matter if we are trying to align a single department or an entire organization, everything we do in any organization is about serving a customer or client.  So when we build policies, assign roles to people, or build organizational charts and processes we have to begin with the needs of the customer.  Sure, we have to make sure everything we do is compliant with laws and regulations, but when we focus on customers in that context, great things can happen.

At the moment, Performance Strategies Group is in middle of a stakeholder relations research on behalf of a client as part of a strategic planning engagement.  That means we are helping our client to identify customer’s opinions about products, their needs, frustrations, and even the reputation of the organization itself,  Yes, we’re also getting feedback from staff, board members, and other appropriate constituencies, but this, or any other organization doesn’t understand the customer’s experience and how easy or difficult it makes them to do business with us, alignment efforts are little more than a lab experiment.  

Whether you’re a CEO, a sales advisor, or a quality control engineer, you have to talk to your clients.  Okay, we will get off our soap box.  Enough said.

If you’ve found this piece insightful, please share it with our friends and peers.  And if you’d like to know how Performance Strategies Group helps clients with strategic planning, alignment, and stakeholder relations–including customers–email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at jim@psghsv.com


Performance Matters: What did you do last night and uncertainty.


It can cause us everything from a bit of anxiety—that pit in our stomachs—to outright panic. But when it comes to our relationships when can feel uncertainty when we walk into a crowded room, meet a new boss, or make a sales call. And at the core of those experiences, we all want to reduce our sense of uncertainty.

So how can we lower that uncertainty quickly and build better and more productive relationships? By learning how, when, and where to ask the right questions. 

Consider this question:  What did you do last night?  It’s a simple question.  But it has a possibility of evoking a remarkable variety of emotions based on how, when, and where we ask. 

If it’s said gently to a teenager, even when we believe they’ve been up to something inappropriate, it might evoke a quiet, “not much.”  But if we ask it in the form of an accusation, WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? it’s likely to evoke a denial, or worse, anger. And if we wake them in the middle of the night ask—no matter what tone we use—we’re only creating more uncertainty and anxiety.  But what if we phrased it this way after the teenager has slept the night, had breakfast and is wide awake?  Tell me about your evening last night?  Wouldn’t we avoid some uncertainty and have a more productive conversation?

When we’re with a prospect—particularly one who might not know us well—each us trying to lower uncertainty.  The prospect wants to know if we are competent, honest, and that our product is fairly priced and best for him.  So we might ask him, “What would you like to know about me and my company or our products?”before anything else. If you’re a sales person and want to become a trusted-advisor,reducing your prospect’s uncertainty first will allow you to offer something about your expertise, the benefits of your product, or even personal references in return.    Once we’ve done that, we can move on to ask our own questions about his business needs and do so in such a manner that inspires confidence in us as an advisor.

There’s much more to be said about asking questions and reducing uncertainty—and we know the teenager example might seem a little extreme.  But in the coming weeks, we’ll show you have you can use this technique with employees to lead more effectively, reduce stress, and improve employee engagement.

Until then….

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.


How to Use the Performance Planner from PSG and other Productivity Strategies

As you may know, we are in the process of introducing our entry level Performance Planner.  Keep watching our social media announcements to see how you can get your free copy and participate  in our beta testing.  But we thought it was a good idea to go ahead and document a few things about how to use the planner and become more productive.

First, there’s a good bit of evidence that using a written planner helps us to be more thoughtful about our planning and helping us to become more productive. That’s why it’s designed as a paper planner.  So with that said, a word about productivity—and our Performance Coaching model is important. (Check out our  website and social media accounts for information about our coaching model.)

Productivity is a function of our energy, as well as our goal-setting and planning.  Our model reminds people that paying attention to our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being is essential to our productivity.  So when you plan, be sure to list how you will be mindful of those needs, rather than simply listing tasks you need to complete.  And put those times for self-care and growth on your calendar as well.  When you want to invest time in painting, enjoying time with friends, meditating, exercising, or learning, putting it on your calendar will protect that time and help you avoid distractions.  And if you want to make changes in your life, you only have four options.  You can do more of something, less of something, do it better ,or do it differently.  One thing to do is look for the things you need to do less of…things that drain your energy or things like too much social media or television time. You can find more about this on our blog at www.psghsv.com or on our Performance Strategies Group Facebook page.

When you open the planner, you will see a 90-Day Outlook page.  Here, you should list major projects, anticipated travel, significant birthdays, vacation plans, and other things coming in the next 90 days that will affect your energy and productivity.  Looking ahead is critical to investing your time rather than spending it. You have to anticipate what’s ahead if you’re serious about achieving your goals.  Once you’ve done that, you will want to give more thought to what the next 10 days holds, as well as what’s coming in the next 30 days.  We call that #tenthirtyninety planning.  And it is part of why this beta version is only intended for quarterly use. We coach people to plan anticipate and plan throughout the year.  Because the only thing significant on December 31 is that the calendar year changes.  Our lives change in small ways throughout the year and we shouldn’t hold ourselves to simply annual goal-setting or planning.  Things change and we need to be vigilant about the changes in our lives as they occur if we want to be productive and invest in things that are meaningful to us.

In the back of the Performance Planner you will find pages for making notes, contacts, and projects you’re working on.  Use these pages for tracking things you are working on that find themselves in your daily planning.  When you’re planning your days, keep in mind there are usually somewhere between three and five thingswe must do to “move the dial” toward achieving our goals.  Every day, be sure to list your #BigThree  (or five).  These are the things that we must accomplish that day to move forward.  If you’re a sales person, it might be setting appointments with three or four people.  If you’re a leader and manager, it might be critical conversations you need to have with your team.  And if you’re trying to achieve some other goal, you will want to list the tasks you feel are most important like spending time with your kids or studying for a big exam. Whatever you do, list those items and put the time on your calendar when you will do them.  That’s the concept of time-blocking we teach our clients.

Finally, we are already at work making some changes to this beta version of our entry-level planner.  We’ve tried to keep it simple, flexible, and affordable.  But we will be adding some pages, changing a few, and we would love your feedback about how to improve it.  You can email us at info@psghsv.com if you have a comment or suggestion.



Performance Matters: Communication and Motivation

So we’ve been talking about productivity, focusing on your big three (things that really move the dial) every day how doing things differently can help you accomplish more.  Let’s flesh that out a bit. Much of this is seemingly common sense, yet being reminded of what’s important is important for all of us.

Being a great communicator is an essential part of leading teams and being and rock-star sales advisor.  But in our hurry, we often fail to think about the form of our messaging and how to get people to respond to it.  So what do we do?

First, consider your medium.  Email is great for communicating data, documenting important matters, and for quick “go-no go” actions (if the recipient watches email carefully).  But if you want to motivate someone to take action (change behavior, buy something, negotiate, etc.), it’s far better to do it face-to-face or by the telephone. There is no substitutefor the power of the human voice, eye contact, and body language when it comes to communication. In my experience, it’s a differentiator—if your message is clear.

Remember, what you want to communicate or motivate people to act upon is only as effective as their confirmation of their understanding. Confirming your expectations by asking “Does this make sense?” “Do you understand what we need to do?”and “Are we clear on what to do next?” and “Can you repeat to me what you think I’m saying?”is essential.  If you’re leading someone, make sure they can confirm what, when, and how you are expect of them.

If you choose email,remember one of the biggest challenges is just getting people to open it!  (Don’t forget to use the “read” receipt request when you send important or prospecting related emails.  Your subject line can be very important.  Sometimes simple subject lines like, “Please call me,”or “Code Red” or a humorous approach can move someone to open an email.  I’ve used subject lines like “Who the heck is Jim Owens and why is he emailing me?” and “Would smoke signals be better?”  Obviously, using humor is dicey.  But if you’ve repeatedly emailed someone and aren’t getting a response, you may have nothing to lose!

Next week, we will explore some more ways to write effective emails.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.



Performance Matters: Productivity and Doing Things Differently

Last week, we discussed how doing things the two or three thingswe need to do every day to move the dialtoward our goals is essential to improving our productivity.  To put it another way, if you think everything is important then nothing is important.  And if we live that way, we will never get the things accomplished we know we should.  We’ll be distracted, unfocused and living out the myth that multi-tasking actually being productive.  Prioritizing our tasks in the context of the “big three” (most important tasks) every day can be a way of doing things differently, which is what we want today.

Whether you’re a business owner, a corporate executive, or a sales person, discovering different ways to do things can make you—and your team—far more productive.  Here are a few examples.

Let’s say you have a team to lead.  Every week you probably have a meeting with them—which means you’ve taken your team away from fulfilling their responsibilities.  So you’d better have them leave knowing something that will help them be more effective.  So before you plan your next meeting, ask yourself, “What will my team or I leave with that will help them be more productive(lower risk, improve customer service, increase revenue)? Even better, challenge your teambefore the meeting to come with their own ideas about how to do so.  This will be uncomfortable for a bit, but do it anyway.  And by all means, place a time limiton your meetings and honor it.  This will insure you talk about what’s most importantand not get lost in the fog of distraction.

If you’re a salesperson, your biggest challenge may be getting in front of your prospects.  Chances are, you’re using email a lot to connect with them. But email is so easy to ignore. Sure, telephone calls can be screened, but using it seems like an almost lost art for many sales people.  So rather than use email, dial the phone.  Develop a concise scriptfor what you want to say, master it and then dial the phone.  And be sure to know how you will respond when someone tells you, “I’m happy with my current provider,” “I’m busy,” or “I’m not interested.”  And if you leave voice mails, simply say, “This is Mike Morris (or Jane, or whatever your name is!) please give me a call.”  That’s it. If people don’t know you, and you don’t over-disclose the purpose of your call, you will separate yourself from your competition, leaving the prospect curious about why you’re calling.  And you’ll be surprised about about who returns your calls.  You can always call back and leave a more detailed message.  We will talk about that next week.

The key message here is to look for things in your process and planning that aren’t working,or aren’t working as well as you believe they might.  So look for different ways to accomplish the same goals. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again.    Isn’t that what Einstein said was the definition of in insanity?

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.