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Motivate employees through better communication

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

by Greg Zumas


employees communicatingWhen it comes to retaining and motivating employees, compensation is important, but communication is key.

Especially for a company with a combination of on-site and virtual employees, regular, required communication between management and staff—and among peers—is essential.

StudyPoint, for example, has offices in Boston and Los Angeles, and half our employees work from home. Our 12-year-old company, which offers tutoring to college-bound teenagers, has a turnover rate of just 1% among employees who have been with us for more than a year. Our customer service rating is triple that of our largest competitor. Communication is the key.

Here are five strategies for employee retention and motivation that have worked for our organization.

1. Connect the work to a higher purpose

We’re a for-profit company with a social mission: to help kids get into college. Working for an organization that does good helps our employees feel good. That’s a great place to start when it comes to motivation. We leverage our higher purpose to bolster our employees’ motivation.

2. Make time every day to communicate

Left on their own, virtual employees—ours are mostly in sales—can feel out of the loop and less engaged with the work than their on-site colleagues. At StudyPoint, half of our full-time folks work in our offices, and the other half work at home. So every single day, every single employee is required to participate in a conference call with team members, no matter where they are.

Four days a week, that call lasts 15 minutes; we call it a “huddle.” During a huddle, teammates report their “wins”—a client got into Duke, for example—and then talk about their sales goals for the day or the month, and review any “housekeeping” items or bring up issues that need further attention after the call ends.

These calls cost a lot, but they keep our employees excited about the work. They keep employees connected to each other, so they hear not only from their supervisors, but from their co-workers on a daily basis.

3. Have each other’s backs

A buddy system pairs employees so they know each other’s clients and can fill in for each other during vacations, busy periods and sick days.

Plus, each buddy’s commission depends partially on the customer service ratings of his or her partner. If one buddy’s customers aren’t happy, that affects the other’s pay. The buddy system creates accountability not only to the company, but between colleagues. It also reduces our need for layer upon layer of management because the employees are holding themselves and each other accountable.

4. Keep score

We publish every sales rep’s numbers for the whole staff to see. Everyone can see every colleague’s customer satisfaction ratings and progress toward individual, team and company goals. It’s clear who is meeting goals and who isn’t.

Underperformers don’t love this system, but it serves several important purposes: It pushes those with low numbers. It recognizes those who do a good job. It prompts successful sales reps to help those who are struggling.

5. Encourage mentorship

As part of our training program, we match seasoned sales reps with those who need additional training. We call these mentorships “stretch roles.”

Most of our employees continually earn better commissions as they become better sales reps. But because our firm has very few managers, there’s not much room for promotions. So a stretch role is an opportunity for an employee who has been with the company for more than five years to embark on a new challenge as a mentor, coach or trainer—while continuing to sell. (Mentors get paid for their coaching time, based on commissions they would have earned had they been selling instead.)

Our return on investment: alignment, motivation, clarity. At the end of the day, all of this is about retention, and it’s working.


Author: Greg Zumas is co-founder and president of StudyPoint, a national provider of private tutoring. Contact him at g.zumas@studypoint.com.

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