Commentary

Are You Investing to Grow Your Human Capital?

Every digital publisher knows how much they need their people to be productive. But, does every digital publisher know how many of his or her people are flight risks? How painful would it be if one or more of your best people left your company?

For most publishers, the costs would likely be staggering. So, how can you prevent this pain? Is it a matter of continually training, challenging and motivating your people? Or, is it something more than that?

More importantly, if you get that first part right and make your best happier than most, how can you be sure that you're doing all you can to keep them from walking out the door?

Making Good Hires? Great! But that's Only the Start

Do a Google Search some time on "Workforce Satisfaction." There is an entire multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. that revolves around that idiom. Why? Almost every survey you can point to claims that more than half the U.S. workforce is less-than-happy with their jobs. A September 2006 Upstream Group survey of 211 digital sales professionals found that 46% were either actively looking for other employment or were generally satisfied but open to other offers. Of this "satisfied but open" group, 39% stated that they'd need to leave their present jobs to move forward in their careers.

I'd say if your company is only measuring your sales employees' profitability, not their personal success or engagement with their role, you will not only lose your best and brightest, but you are also undermining your bottom line - and maybe your top line.

The Role Training Can Play in Retention

Upstream has worked with more than 250 digital publishers - companies large and small. But very few employ any kind of systemic retention strategy for their best sales talent. The few that do employ systems to retain their talent all have one thing in common - their systems rely on training with meaningful investments in employee development. When we did our survey in 2006, about half of the individual respondents felt they were not receiving the kind of quality training they needed to remain competitive. Today 's hyper-aware sales professional sees a strong correlation between feeling well trained -- prepared by and invested in by their employer -- and feeling like they want to stick around a while.

The sense of belonging that employers want to foment in their employees has to be manifestly reciprocated for today 's worker. They want to know that employers are walking that talk as well.

We all know that new digital media sales hires take months to become productive team members. Sales training should be more than an administrative hurdle assigned to someone in your human resources department. And good sales training requires more than having new sales associates tag along with one of your best-in fact these types of ride-alongs are a waste of your best sale resources unless the trainee already has a strong base of knowledge.

Experts Employ Standardized Programs

The solution is adherence to expert and standardized sales training programs. It is critical that new sales professionals conform quickly to their team, clients, and new environment. Standardized training programs should provide the added benefit of analysis and reflection at each step of a digital sales career, providing benchmarks for seasoned sales professionals as well as for the publishers they work for. Whether beginning a digital media career, or receiving advanced training, certified training programs provide a standardized credential and form a basis for comparison.

Tracking your sales employees' professional progress through education can inform the review process and also provide a mechanism with which to improve discrete skill sets.

Just as we obsess over the yield of campaigns we run for clients, our industry would benefit from an obsession on training and an investment in professional sales education to enhance both the retention of the best professionals and the growth of the industry as a whole. Start your retention strategy by investing and training your people now. Better still: Make your best people stakeholders in your program by having senior staff among them work with junior staff, providing valuable management experience they may not get elsewhere. Assume that half your people are considering other jobs then ask yourself, can you afford to wait?

Weaver is the founder and CEO of Upstream Group, and has trained more than 7,000 digital sales people across more than 250 companies on three continents. The company has recently announced the launch of "Upstream Habitat," an immersive two-day workshop for digital sellers. More information can be found at http://www.upstreamgroup.com/habitat.html

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