HomeSpecial ReportWhen Self-Motivation Works Against Companies

When Self-Motivation Works Against Companies

A surge in entrepreneurial spirit is draining the talent pool

A significant contributor to the Great Resignation, which has companies struggling to fill open positions, is a rush to entrepreneurship and self-employment. According to U.S.Labor Department data, the number of unincorporated self-employed workers has risen by 500,000 since the start of the pandemic. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that entrepreneurs applied for federal tax identification numbers to register 4.54 million new businesses from January through October this year, up 56% from the same period in 2019.

The characteristics of a strong salesperson are similar to that of an individual who is attracted to launching their own business.They’re willing to take chances, have the confidence to bet on themselves and are self-motivated.

In this sort of environment, companies no longer compete only against other businesses for top sales talent. They’re faced with offering an enticing work option to self-driven individuals who have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to be their own boss. Here are some starting points for accomplishing that.

  • Flexibility – It’s the word that is most often heard from consultants and managers who are asked what’s important in a total compensation package. What does flexibility look like? For starters, remote work opportunities at least half of the time and measuring employee performance on productivity, not presenteeism. “Flexibility goes hand in hand with trust,” said Brooke Hamrick, head of growth at Pequity, suppliers of a compensation software platform.
  • Attractive benefits – Henry Glickel of Sales Recruiters Inc. says his company pays 100% of its employees’ health coverage and it’s worth every nickel. Unlimited time off is another component of benefits packages that is becoming more common. If you hire the right people, Glickel said, you don’t have to worry about workers abusing
    an unlimited time off policy.
  • Providing meaningful work – Job design – the conscious effort to create role responsibilities that benefit the company while simultaneously maximizing job satisfaction and self-motivation, is “the future of recruiting, retention and work,” said Rikka Brandon, founder and CEO of Recruit Retain Rock. “It’s about marrying a candidate’s desires and motivations to the business and its needs.”
  • Selling something good – If you don’t offer products or services that sales reps can be proud to stand behind, good luck keeping top talent. A 2018 Harvard Business Review survey of more than 2,000 workers showed that nine out of 10 would forego 23% of their lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.

In July, The Wall Street Journal reported that ZipRecruiter, an online job platform, showed the number of sales roles advertised had risen 65% in 2021 to more than 700,000 open positions. The Journal reported more recently that the percentage of U.S. workers who are self-employed has risen to the highest level in 11 years. Upwork, a job site for freelancers, reports that a survey taken this summer showed that 20% of people working remotely during the pandemic were considering leaving their jobs for freelance work. And LinkedIn reports the number of members who indicate they are self- employed has quadrupled since the pandemic began.

In the hunt for top sales talent, companies have long had to offer a better compensation package and work environment than other businesses. Now, they have to build something better than current and existing employees can create for themselves.


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Paul Nolan
Paul Nolan
Paul Nolan is the editor of Sales & Marketing Management magazine.

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