The Real Reasons Your Employees Are Disengaged and How to Improve Morale 

A sales leader’s goal is not the number. Let that sink in.

A sales leader’s goal is employee engagement. Because when this happens in an effective way, the number is going to follow. 

This paradigm shift gets talked about often, but we rarely see it put into practice. One of my favorite sales influencers, Lauren Bailey, is such a great evangelist of this philosophy. At PEAK ‘22, Ambition’s recent sales summit, Lauren talked at length about what a disservice we are doing to the sales profession when we make it only about the number. 

According to Harvard Business Review, 75% of people in sales fail. And they normally fail within the first 14 months. A lot of blame for this is placed on their direct manager (sometimes warranted), but 60% of sales managers will also fail within their first 2 years. We can’t exclusively blame the manager. We have a bigger problem on our hands. And it points back to our oversight in focusing more on the numbers than on our people.

So where have we fallen short when it comes to creating positive sales cultures? In this blog, I’ll identify 5 key signs of disengaged employees, the root causes of employee disengagement, and how we as sales leaders can start improving morale and increasing engagement. 

5 Signs of Disengaged Employees

Before we can address the solution to our problem, we have to understand what disengaged employees look like. Here are some of the trademark signs and behaviors that indicate poor morale or low engagement:

  1. Decrease in productivity/performance
    This is an early sign that someone on your team is beginning to disengage. There’s nothing wrong with a drop in performance every now and then, but when a rep’s lack of consistency in activity and performance becomes a trend, you know you have an issue.
  2. Withdrawal or lack of participation
    Have you noticed less or decreased engagement on Zoom calls or in Slack? Does a rep give short answers to questions during 1:1s? Are they collaborating less with the team or only passively participating in group coaching or competitions?
  3. Lack of communication
    Does a rep miss a meeting without letting you know? Have they failed to follow up on a project or activity they’ve been assigned?
  4. Decreased or little interest in development or challenge
    When you push for a rep’s growth and development, do they respond apathetically or appear disinterested?
  5. Break in routine
    Have you noticed sudden changes to a rep’s working schedule or behaviors? Are they absent online during regular work hours or coming into the office less frequently?

Root Causes of Employee Disengagement

Now you know what behaviors to be on the lookout for—but what’s really at the heart of someone’s lack of engagement? Here are some of the core issues that leave employees feeling disengaged.

  1. Their perception is that you care more about their contributions than you do about them
    We send signals every day about the things we care about. In your 1:1 coaching sessions, do you express any interest in how a rep is doing outside of work, or are you just asking them when the next deal is coming in?

  2. They don’t feel impactful to the business
    Employees need to know they have a purpose and impact at your company. One of the most important things a leader can do is to make sure they remind their people of their value and impact often.
  3. They aren’t being coached or developed
    If you don’t invest in coaching or development plans for your people, they will have a very pessimistic view of their future with the business. More than money and other perks, your people want to be developed. If you aren’t giving it to them, they will find another place to get it.
  4. They don’t know where they stand
    This one may come as a surprise. Because sales is such a numbers-driven profession, it seems like everyone would see their numbers and have a general idea of where they stand. But we need to give our people very clear expectations of what “good” looks like and be candid with them about the full picture of their performance.
  5. They don’t feel recognized
    Sales leaders are busy, and employee recognition is one of the first things to fall off their radar when the calendar gets full. Sure, we celebrate the big six-figure deal that comes through, but are we shining a light on the small wins or the behaviors we want to promote amongst the team? And are we getting to know how each employee prefers to be recognized? I’ve shouted out team members before in a large group setting and they were mortified. Sometimes a personal email or Slack message acknowledging a win can go just as far. 

4 Ways to Start Improving Morale 

What now? We understand the signs and root causes of disengaged employees. How do we start driving better engagement amongst our teams? A huge piece of this is ensuring your people are well equipped and coached to actually succeed in their roles. Here are 4 ways you, as a sales leader, coach, or manager, can begin to invest more intentionally in the people on your team. 

  1. Build development plans
    As mentioned previously, when we don’t create development plans for people, we send the message that there is no future for those employees. Development plans don’t necessarily need to path people to another role. They can outline steps to development within their current role or create a path to some micro-promotions.

  2. Build enablement plans
    Research shows that what young sellers want most from their jobs is to learn, which is why ongoing training and coaching is so important. When this happens regularly, reps are likely becoming more effective in their role—and when they feel confident and see their efforts pay off, they will be much more engaged.
  3. Be a better leader
    This might sound blunt, but the stats on employee retention don’t lie. The biggest factor on whether an employee stays with or leaves a company is based on their direct manager. If we aren’t continually striving to be the best possible leaders, we might be the cause of a lot of the disengagement.
  4. Make work fun
    We spend the majority of our time at work. If we aren’t occasionally thinking about how we can make it a bit more enjoyable, we are doing our people (and ourselves) a disservice. Fun certainly is not the main goal, but it can be a successful way to drive performance and engagement simultaneously. Look for opportunities to create contests, put rewards and incentives behind certain milestones, or even just carve out time to catch up on non-work related items with your people. This can go a long way in improving your team’s engagement. 

>> Check out our template gallery for competition ideas and contests that will help you drive engagement and create a culture of recognition. <<

Remember: numbers are important, but numbers aren’t everything. When you put your people first and focus on keeping them engaged through training, development, motivation, and simply establishing good rapport, you’ll create a culture that retains top performers, and the numbers will take care of themselves.

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