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The Great Realignment

The Great Realignment: What’s the Right Strategy for Sales Operations?

One of the major disruptions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has been its impact on employment and churn. In many corners of the economy across numerous industries, workers just aren’t going to take it any longer. Forced into furloughs, quarantines, or work-from-home scenarios, millions of workers discovered new priorities and changed career paths, and thought about their working conditions. 

And in the process, they’ve willingly walked away from their jobs in record numbers. Is this the result of pent-up resignations from workers who, prior to the pandemic’s onset, planned to leave but remained in place given the widespread economic uncertainty (and few viable alternatives during the darkest months)? Employees have been increasingly mobile for years – perhaps the pandemic caused a temporary dip, followed by a sharp overcorrection. 

Maybe that’s true, but the discontent hasn’t ended and the trend has only grown. From 2001-2021, the resignation rate in the U.S. never topped 2.4% of the total workforce per month. While there’s some variability, quit rates typically move in inverse correlation to unemployment figures. However, as the pandemic has continued, the number of workers who have quit their jobs has soared – creating continued labor shortages despite high unemployment. 

A study from Adobe found that Millennials and Generation Z are driving this shift, with more than half of Gen Z planning to find new positions within the coming year. Those younger cohorts are voting with their feet, gladly resigning to search for more favorable working conditions and a better work–life balance.

But a funny thing has happened amid those short tenures and hair-trigger resignations. Those workers haven’t remained on the sidelines. In other words, they didn't exit the workforce – they simply shifted to other jobs (even as job vacancies remain stubbornly elevated). Instead of “The Great Resignation,” maybe we should be calling the “The Great Realignment” – the largest game of “employment musical chairs” we’ve witnessed. 

Automation is the Retention Strategy

Regardless of the label, this labor shift is not a new phenomenon in sales operations and administration. In the pandemic/post-pandemic era, business opportunities and threats are shifting rapidly, placing significant demands on sales to adjust and respond.

For years, however, the sales operations role has been one characterized by countless limitations, manual processes, and frustrations. It’s a complicated (and often thankless) role that has led to higher levels of turnover. That’s even truer in the era of The Great Realignment, when sales ops pros have more options. 

Sales operations (and accounting and payroll teams) have been forced to rely on spreadsheets and other manual tools to design comp plans, calculate commissions, and communicate results – and payment – on a timely basis.  The headaches are numerous. 

  • Spreadsheet Creep – It doesn’t take long to accumulate dozens or hundreds of fragile, non-secure workbooks with hard-coded (often incorrect) formulas that are cumbersome to share and impossible to audit.
  • Data Dumps – Sales comp plans require data from CRM, ERP, and HR, and many other data sources. Each has their own periodicities and formatting issues, leading to disparities, reconciliations, formatting issues, and more.
  • Calculation Delays and Errors – It takes days to import data and calculate each rep’s commissions and quota status. With the numerous points of failure, there’s an unacceptably high risk of calculation errors and costly overpayments that either go undetected or cause clawbacks and morale issues. 

How can you respond? It starts with rethinking how you manage your incentive compensation infrastructure. No longer must ICM remain a burdensome, resource-draining challenge. For many companies, automation is the retention strategy. New-breed incentive compensation management systems can deliver enterprise-class functionality that streamlines all aspects of commissions for fast-growing businesses.

  • Data Import and Preparation – Ask anyone in sales ops, and you’ll quickly learn: the most overlooked aspect of ICM is the data, which can require tremendous time and effort to import, manipulate, and transform. Your ICM platform should prepare, import, and enrich all the data you need – sales data, reference data, people data, and sales-crediting rules.
  • Commission Logic – The appeal of automated ICM lies in the ability to automatically, quickly, and accurately calculate complex commissions using unique plan rules, formulas, and rates across multiple territories, quotas, targets, product lines, and more. With speed and accuracy, your ICM removes a tremendous burden from the sales ops team.
  • Reporting and Workflows – Beyond the many important tactical gains of ICM (streamlined processes, prompt and accurate payments, faster communications, and easier resolution of disputes (which are usually far fewer), higher value awaits. With leaderboards and stacked rankings, sales ops can focus on higher-level, higher-value activities, starting with showing you who’s performing, who needs coaching, what plans need adjustment, and how they can drive even greater revenue growth.

Savvy companies recognize that, in this new employment era, a multifaceted approach is needed because, ultimately, talent is dictating the terms of engagement. With automated ICM, employees can sidestep the headaches and focus on more fulfilling aspects of their work – making them less likely to succumb to the lure of The Great Realignment.

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