It will take a whole load of courage to buck the trend

Ladies and gentlemen, hello, I hope you’re all well, to quote an ex-military friend of mine “it’s like Narnia out there”.

It’s that wonderful time of the year where for some reason or other I find myself on 10+ external meetings a week. Well, ok, in the interests of honesty let me start that one again. Due to some poor diary management and a particularly busy time of the year I’m averaging 10+…..

Between us (ha) I really enjoy these months. I love them for loads of reasons, I generally really like the people that we work with, I get a chance to hear loads of thoughts and feedback on what we do, I get to strengthen relationships, or forge new ones, I often find myself “realising” things about what we do that I hadn’t realised before. I get to hear lots of wonderful feedback on our grads and success stories to match. I get to use my “Tube exits” app which means every time I walk out of a tube carriage I get to feel quietly chuffed that I’ve lined everything up just right. I get to see loads of different offices which I find surprisingly interesting and I get loads (LOADS) of coffee.

The other very useful thing that these months provide me with is the chance to do a bit of market research and see if I can spot any trends across all the businesses that we work with. I’m going to share this with you now, although I’m conscious that it’s only the 11th of November, so by the end of the month it’s possible that these will have changed, but I doubt it.

1.     Everyone wishes they were better at sales

2.     No-one feels like they’re using their CRM properly

3.     No-one feels they have cracked employee engagement and retention.

Do you feel like this? I’m willing to bet you feel at least a little bit of all of these.

The sales thing is one for a later blog, but my one big observation here is that I really struggle to think of businesses where sales is not the constraint to growth. Tesla maybe, but really not many others. So there’s something in that. My thoughts? Fundamentally the brand of sales has suffered so much, for so long, that no matter how many CEOs articulate the value of sales people, it doesn’t seem to help.

The next point here is the CRM one. A weird one, shouldn’t someone, somewhere be raving about their CRM? Shouldn’t we be hearing say 1 in 2 people saying “I don’t know where I’d be without our CRM” or “It adds so much value to my working life and makes everything more efficient”. I may be way off the mark here, but do you hear talk like this?

Finally, no-one feels they have cracked employee engagement and retention. They really don’t. It’s not always the same dissatisfaction, sometimes it’s “no-one works here for long enough” sometimes it’s “no-one leaves” (very rarely). There will often be talk of the latest employee engagement survey results being alarming, “We have a major skills gap in our first couple of levels of management” or “we need to digitally upskills our senior leaders across the organisation” both very common.

I do not know how to fix employee engagement, I do not know how to get people using a CRM properly and I’m not going to try to tell you. However, from observing businesses talk about these sorts of challenges for a good few years now, I do think that I’ve identified something in common.

All of these challenges, that misusing a CRM or having bad retention and engagement cause are treated as ‘very important’. The senior leaders within these businesses would describe the “alarming” results of an employee engagement survey as “something we need to rectify quickly and decisively. However, when these things are being rolled out, they’re never treated as ‘core business’. People’s targets and incentives are hardly ever tied to their use of the CRM and team leaders and managers are far more likely to be targeted on revenue generation, number of incidents resolved or effective delivery than employee engagement.

So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that if these things are important to the performance of the business then you should make them important to everyone within the organisation. When things are viewed as a “nice to have” they’re often discarded and the behaviours aren’t in line with your expectations.

It will take courage to buck this trend and, as with anything, it would be met with resistance (at first) but 15 meetings in to my month and I can tell you that the business that does it will be truly unique!

Until next week.