Businesses employing sales staff and other field personnel in particular are potentially vulnerable to issues such as time theft and decreased productivity. The first step in establishing standards of accountability is to state what needs to be done, clearly.
The goals listed in the business plan should be reflected in the employee job description and in their performance appraisals. The next step is to ensure the goals are being accomplished; that the job as outlined is performed.
The final step is regular monitoring to ensure employees are on task and to correct the behavior that is allowing accountability to decrease or be suspect.
Ensuring the Proper Fit
It starts with the interview process. Human resources, along with the hiring manager, typically are involved with recruiting and interviewing personnel. There are some things that can be put in place to ensure the person with the right personality and experience for working independently is chosen.
Asking the right questions is key to narrowing down the proper candidates.
Provide an aptitude test that demonstrates the amount of ability the candidate holds in terms of working independently, on schedule, with deadlines, and under any unique circumstances applicable to the company.
A standard business practice in most of today’s companies, checking applicants’ backgrounds provides a clue about whether or not a person is suited to working independently. If it is possible to check references, try including some questions about a person’s history with working in the field to determine suitability, providing the applicant has performed outside the office before. If he/she is a true consideration for such a job, hopefully they have.
When the Person Is Hired
Allowing employees to do their jobs independently promotes morale. But sometimes when things are in question, it is perfectly acceptable for a manager to conduct field-monitoring visits of his or her employees. Documenting such visits in the form of a short review ensures employees take the visit seriously and come to expect it, even unannounced. Regular management field visits to prevent issues also is good practice.
The Performance Evaluation
Tying in goals directly based upon time and productivity in the field is essential as well. In sales in particular, goals are performance based, and often so is compensation. The supervisor must ensure this is clear to field employees.
Conduct Customer/Client Surveys
Contacting the customer or client is good practice to ensure proper service is delivered. It also is a smart way to find out if there are issues either with the product or service, or an employee. Tailor your short survey to include questions about product/service and employee representative satisfaction. Conduct the survey in person if possible, but the telephone also is a good option.
Discipline Immediately When There Is Doubt
When there is a reason for doubting complete buy-in on the part of the field employee, be sure your doubt or suspicion is documented, and back it with facts. If you have observed your employee stating he or she is spending two hours on a sales call that you know typically requires only one hour, make a note of it and mention it to the individual before it gets out of hand.
Be sure the employee realizes your awareness before it gets more serious for either them or the company. It is not a good idea to wait for the performance evaluation to mention this unless the evaluation is scheduled close to the incident in question. Give the employee a chance to correct the behavior before it is documented in his/her evaluation. But keep a file of documentation on any incident or suspicion to help track any future incidents or questions.