Fifty-six percent. Wouldn't it be nice if that were the growth rate in the direct selling industry? Unfortunately, it's the employee turnover rate. Being a direct selling company in a digital world dominated by Apple, Google, and Amazon is challenging enough. If you're losing your top talent, how do you survive—let alone thrive—in the marketplace?
To reduce turnover, it's imperative that you inspire loyalty in your employees by engaging them. If you look at the top places to work in direct selling (according to the Direct Selling News 2018 Best Places to Work in Direct Selling survey), one thing the frontrunners have in common is high levels of employee engagement. The majority of companies, however, struggle with employee relationships. As Businessolver's 2018 State of Workplace Empathy report shows, only 31 percent of employees are engaged at work.
To get some insight into why employees are apathetic or dissatisfied, just look up a few direct selling companies on an employee review site like Glassdoor or Indeed and read what people say it's like to work for any company. After reading a few pages of online reviews, you'll notice similar complaints from employees of various direct selling companies. While this method is by no means scientific, that feedback reveals three common themes that will help you pave the way for engaging employees.
Engaged employees have a strong sense that they're fulfilling their company's mission and giving back to the community. They realize the work they do on a day-to-day basis is valuable. Rather than just taking calls or designing marketing materials, they know they're helping create opportunities for a student to pay his way through school or a single mom to support her family.
However, making sure employees know your company's mission isn't enough. They want to feel empowered to carry it out. In online reviews, many employees said that a lack of innovation, leaders who were stuck in their ways, and outdated technology (like a DOS-based CRM and buggy website) interfered with the company's success. These specific complaints illustrate the importance of keeping an eye to the future. Be open to change, consider employees' ideas, and leverage technology to benefit your business.
As you carve out new paths for growth, ensure your employees are progressing as well. They want to know where they're going with the company, but a common refrain in employees' online reviews was that there were no opportunities for advancement. In some cases, promotions weren't available because of existing employees' tenure (a good problem for a company to have!). Often, however, employees were dissatisfied with the lack of upward mobility because leadership didn't communicate with them about available opportunities or there was a political company culture where promotions were handed out on a who-you-know basis.
Of course, promotions aren't always possible for every employee, but investing in personal and professional development—such as one-on-one coaching, training courses, certifications, and higher education—shows that you're committed to helping them achieve their career goals within your company.
Businessolver's research found that 9 in 10 employees are more likely to stay with an organization that empathizes with their needs. Not only that, 8 in 10 employees, HR professionals, and CEOs say empathy in the workplace positively affects business success by engaging employees and even boosting financial performance.
Empathy is more than just lip service. As one reviewer pointed out, "[Leaders] tell you that their employees are very important, but they do not show that. In the call center, employees are not viewed as people, they are looked at in terms of coverage."
So how do you show your employees that you are empathetic? Take some advice from direct selling employees themselves:
• "Treat people like people not machines."
• "Care about your employees and get to know who they are. Be more down to earth and friendly."
• "Do better at trying to retain employees of long stature, as they carry with them a ton of business knowledge."
Showing your staff you value them could involve prioritizing work-life balance, offering generous benefits, allowing flexible schedules, embracing diversity, acknowledging employees' milestones and accomplishments, and encouraging innovation.
Championing employee growth and showing empathy have a common denominator: communication. Employees feel valued and empowered when they know how the business operates and how they're personally performing. However, a common theme among direct selling companies' employee reviews was confusion about company processes, which led to inefficiency, and in many cases, turnover.
Several people wanted more clarity and organization in the following areas:
• Organizational structure (e.g., relation of headquarters staff to regional staff and global reporting structure)
• Internal career paths
• Performance review process
Communication doesn't have to be all business, though. Employees love talking about things that are important to them. Ask them about their families, their hobbies, and the vacation they took over the summer.
When it comes to showing empathy through communication, Businessolver found that 90 percent of employees, HR professionals, and CEOs agree that face-to-face conversations and team meetings are ideal. This is a delicate balance, however—several reviewers complained of too many meetings, which made decision-making difficult. There's also the issue of company growth. The more staff your company adds, the more challenging it is for executives to connect with employees.
Don't let these challenges stop you from communicating with your employees. Try having open conference calls, during which you can share company updates, recognize employees, and open up the floor for questions. Another effective way to build engagement is to send an eNewsletter that features a personal message from you, notable employee accomplishments, and positive feedback from distributors about specific staff members or departments. All newsletter content should reflect and reiterate your company's values and mission.
Finally, remember that the way you communicate is just as important as the medium through which you communicate. Micromanaging projects, ignoring or discounting new ideas, and withholding praise and constructive feedback erodes employees' sense of purpose and value.
You'll find that when you develop, value, and connect with employees, your turnover rate will drop. As your employees stay and grow, so too will your revenue, profits, and business.
With over 20 years leading client service and operations teams, Steve Henning is the Senior Marketing and Operations Director for IMN. He oversees teams in three distinct locations across the U.S., serving industries such as direct selling, financial services and automotive dealerships. Regardless of location or industry, his teams focus on helping clients reach their customers through numerous channels by communicating a variety of targeted messages designed to improve revenue and customer satisfaction — all while fostering a positive internal team culture.