Reprint from the above….
Wells Fargo and the Slippery Slope of Sales Incentives
Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, Sally E. Lorimer
SEPTEMBER 20, 2016
In early September Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $185 million fine and return $5 million in fees wrongly charged to customers. The settlement stems from the bank’s employees allegedly opening more than 2 million bank and credit card accounts without customers’ permission. The CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf, apologized in front of a congressional panel Tuesday, saying in a statement, “I accept full responsibility for all unethical sales practices.”
That speaks to why they did this in the first place: To meet sales quotas and earn incentives.
This is certainly not the first time that a high-profile sales scandal like this has hit the press. In the early 1990s Sears sought to restore its reputation with $46 million in coupons because some employees of its automotive repair division (who were paid a commission on sales of parts and services) had allegedly enticed customers into authorizing and paying for needless repairs. In 2005 the world’s largest insurance broker, Marsh Inc., paid $850 million in fines in the aftermath of accusations that it had received kickbacks from insurance companies for steering business their way — a scheme at odds with Marsh’s commitment to finding the best deal for customers.
Beyond the fines, Wells Fargo has fired at least 5,300 employees for “inappropriate sales conduct,” and the bank is making changes to its quota system. Stumpf said in an earlier statement: “We are eliminating product sales goals because we want to make certain our customers have full confidence that our retail bankers are always focused on the best interests of customers.” Politicians, predictably, have railed against the leadership at Wells Fargo and have called for Stumpf’s resignation. One of the intriguing facts to come to light is that the fraudulent account openings continued even after the bank was aware of it and had fired employees for it starting in 2011.
That suggests that firing employees was not enough to curb the actions. Will eliminating sales goals do it? Before answering this question, it is useful to understand why and how such sales practices begin and spread within an organization.
In these and many other similar (but often less high-profile) cases, much of the blame gets placed on the sales goals and incentives. Salespeople are offered a large monetary reward linked to the achievement of sales goals — goals that employees perceive as excessively high. Sales managers, too, are rewarded for goal achievement, so they put pressure on salespeople to deliver. Salespeople are enticed by the promise of the large reward, or perhaps they are fearful of losing their jobs. Either way, they do whatever it takes to make sales goals.
But large rewards tied to challenging sales goals do not have to be a deadly combination. Many companies have great success using incentives and stretch goals to motivate the sales force and drive revenue. The culture in such sales forces may be sales-oriented and even competitive, yet salespeople still behave ethically and remain focused on meeting customers’ needs.
What differentiates sales teams that play by the rules from those that break them?
Large-scale unethical sales practices often begin with minor ethical compromises. Things escalate and spread from there. Consider the following sequence:
A bank account manager, under pressure to make a sales goal, pushes a customer to add a credit card, even though the account manager knows it’s not in the customer’s interest
Still short of the goal, the account manager asks his friends and family to open accounts. (The accounts are to be closed shortly thereafter.)
With the goal still not achieved, the account manager opens accounts without asking customers and transfers a small amount of money. (The accounts are closed shortly thereafter and the money is transferred back.)
As soon as the account manager gets away with the first unethical act, it’s not a big step to the fraudulent ones. The justification moves from “it’s legal” to “no one is harmed” to “no one will notice.” When such practices are tolerated, they escalate in severity and spread throughout the organization.
To prevent that, the sales culture has to stop the first level of compromise, because the slippery slope begins there. As Wells Fargo has discovered in the last five years, even a strong compliance function — one that began firing people in 2011 — can’t counteract a compromised culture. When things escalate to such a scale, the problems won’t stop with salespeople. Managers and leaders may be looking the other way, or aiding and abetting the behaviors.
What’s most insidious is that managers and leaders may be engaging in similar behaviors in their spheres and domains — in how they deal with other people inside the company, with partners, and with suppliers. Often, bringing about change requires going right to the top of the sales organization and bringing in a new leader who isn’t connected to the history of what’s happened. This individual can build a new culture based on appropriate values and the right workstyle.
Though not a question for customers and regulators, companies such as Wells Fargo have to ask how they can succeed in a sales world without heavy reliance on goals and incentives.
In 2011, about the same time that Wells Fargo began firing employees for questionable sales practices, we wrote a piece for HBR.org addressing that very issue. We called it “Is Your Sales Force Addicted to Incentives?” As we wrote back then, the key to success will be a new culture built around a more balanced approach to managing sales. This new approach will require using tools other than incentives — for example, interesting work, enhanced processes for selecting salespeople and managers, training and coaching, information sharing, empowerment, teamwork, manager assistance and supervision, and improved performance management systems — to motivate salespeople and guide and control sales behaviors.
If the bank is successful in transforming to this balanced sales culture, then perhaps the money it once used for employee incentives can instead go to customer incentives — for example, a no-fee credit card or a better interest rate for opening a new high-balance account. Other companies would be wise to take the time to examine their own sales culture and ask whether incentives might be clouding otherwise good judgment.
Andris A. Zoltners is a professor emeritus at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois. He is also a cofounder of ZS Associates, a global business consulting firm headquartered in Evanston, and a coauthor of The Power of Sales Analytics.
PK Sinha is a founder and cochairman of ZS Associates, a global business consulting firm, and a coauthor of The Power of Sales Analytics.
Sally E. Lorimer is a marketing and sales consultant and a business writer based in Northville, Michigan. She is a coauthor of three books on sales force management.
How do we reflect and encourage a commitment to “do the right thing” despite daily pressures make regaining or sustaining profitability our top priority?
A leader can start by admitting mistakes and encouraging other to do the same. Hiding findings or blaming others very often comes from a very natural need to protect ourselves from harm. The best companies understand this and work hard to foster open communication and avoid the tendency to make issues more complex than they are. Very often all it takes is a “gut check.” Put more simply: doing good, feels good.
Sometimes a commitment to values comes at a high short-term cost (admitting mistakes and fixing them is almost never without cost to the client or stakeholders.) But living by a set of values that focus on doing good by employees and customers creates a stronger company over the long haul.
Developing–and living with–a set of principles that guide decision making throughout an organization is no simple task. It involves the kind of soul-searching that not all people are prepared to engage in, especially in difficult economic times.
The value of doing good
I feel fortunate to be in a business where we can do well by doing good. As a staffing firm, the work we do impacts the lives of the people we touch in a powerful way. We must be ever vigilant and mindful of this impact. What impact do you have on the lives of others? I suspect it’s more than you realize. If you are a manager, do your employees understand your values and commitment to doing the right thing? As an employee, do you feel empowered to do what’s right, and admit mistakes along the way? Or is your first thought about how to mitigate the cost before understanding the impact on the lives of others?
Balancing work and life
“Quality of life” issues, such as balancing one’s work and personal lives, are still thorny issues at many firms. Thirty years ago, if you’d talked about these issues, management would question your commitment, or even your sanity. But most people are trying to balance their business lives with their personal lives, their professional needs with their health, social, and spiritual needs.
In these difficult times, there is a lot of pressure to work harder and longer, for the very real fear of losing ones job. Good business leaders know, however, that squeezing as much out of workers as possible, may increase productivity for the short-term, but is not sustainable for the long-term. Long-term profitability is sustained when employees are motivated and committed out of a sense of loyalty.
Managing for the short term as well as the long
As much as leaders understand that we must manage for the long term and keep employees happy, we must be realists and manage for the short term, as well–and that’s tough in the current economic environment. Just as people must manage their personal and work responsibilities, so, too, must companies balance their priorities –all companies must manage for the short term to some degree. We all need to understand the tradeoffs.
Of course, we would all love to work for a company that only manages for the long term, but that is not a reality today. Cash reserves have dwindled, and funding sources have tightened or disappeared altogether. Many of us are simply trying to keep the wolves at bay, and must ask more of ourselves, our colleagues and our employees. But we must not let our fears cause us to lose sight of our values and our commitments to do the right thing!
Shannon Erdell is the President of TLC Staffing and author of “Temporary Sanity: Managing Today’s Flexible Workforce”, SOCAA Publishing 1995. Headquartered in San Diego, with offices in Southern California and North Carolina, TLC Staffing is a 24 year old, multi-disciplined temporary and permanent placement firm. Their specialty divisions include: Business Services, Accounting and Finance, Legal, Human Resources, Engineering and IT. www.tlcstaffing.com 858-569-6260
Stress in the workplace, whether triggered by significant workloads or pressing deadlines, can sidetrack employees and prevent them from doing their best. The following simple steps for managers and employees can help reduce the pressure and increase team performance and productivity:
• Avoid Setting Unrealistic Goals. Setting achievable goals with reasonable timelines helps your sense of accomplishment grow while your stress level declines.
• Step-Out Complicated Projects. Dividing a complex project into phases provides specific direction, helps maintain a calm environment, and motivates the team. Daily or weekly to-do lists can also help prioritize tasks.
• Make Time for Meetings and Completing Tasks. Blocking out the time necessary to complete a task on your calendar is just as important as scheduling time for meetings.
• Communicate Regularly. Recognizing employee achievements can increase confidence, as well as reduce stress related to workloads. Employees may also be able to help identify new ways that they can contribute.
• Schedule Time for Exercise. A regular exercise routine can help lower stress and recharge your batteries for the challenges ahead.
Remember that laughter can be one of the best stress relievers of all–when things start to get too intense, it could be time for a little humor to lighten the load.
This article, written by Executive Search Pro, Bill Radin, is VERY worth sharing again, and again, and again….
It’s been said that Napoleon won his battles in his tent; that is, he did all the planning the night before the battle was joined, so that every contingency could be adequately covered. Interview preparation is similar. You never know exactly what will happen on the battlefield, but by being ready, you can eliminate a lot of the uncertainty, and know how to react to different scenarios.
Later, we’ll look at ways to effectively conduct the interview itself; but for now, let’s focus on the list, each item at a time.
One: The Resume
Of course, bring a couple of copies, and be sure to read your resume before the interview, so you’re completely familiar with everything you’ve written. Nothing is more embarrassing (or potentially fatal to your candidacy) than being quizzed on some aspect of your background that appears on the bottom of page two — and not being able to remember the details.
You might also bring materials which would be particularly good at illustrating an important aspect of your work, such as creative designs, writing samples, and so forth. Just remember to use your better judgment.
I once interviewed an engineer who brought with him a lawn and garden string trimmer made by his current company, so he could show me the design improvements he’d made on the product. It turns out his engineering efforts had lowered the trimmer’s cost to manufacture, which resulted in increased profits for his company. His version of “show and tell” was a bit extreme (my whole office was buzzing for weeks about my Weed Eater candidate), but at least his real-life picture told me a thousand words.
Be careful, though, not to overdo it with the props. College diplomas, letters of commendation, and company bowling trophies should be left at home. When in doubt, just bring your resume and your business card — they’re the most important props you’ll ever need.
It’s a good idea to carry a leather folder or day runner with you so you can take notes or store written materials the company might hand you during the course of your interview. A briefcase is also fine, although I prefer a folder, which is lighter to carry, and less cumbersome. Always remember to bring a pen or pencil.
Two: Appropriate Dress and Appearance
Much as I find some aspects of the New Dress for Success (Warner Books, 1988) formula as espoused by author and wardrobe consultant John T. Molloy a bit disheartening, there’s simply no practical excuse for dressing any way other than the book suggests. Sure, we’d all like to think that we’re being judged on our qualifications, skills, and depth of character. But the truth is, when it comes to interviewing, in most cases, clothes make the man. To think any other way is to ignore reality.
Three: Directions To the Interview Location
Try to get directions at least a day before your interview, so you don’t get lost and arrive late. And here’s a tip: Always bring some cash to pay for parking. Never ask an employer to validate your parking stub, or reimburse you for parking. Not only is it impolite, you’ll create a negative impression, since it’s considered common courtesy to pay your own expenses for a local interview.
If you’re coming from out of town, then it’s especially important to get directions. Naturally, if the expenses for your interviewing trip are going to be covered by the employer, wait until the interview has concluded (or better yet, the next day) to settle up. Usually, the company will prepay the air fare, or other major expenses, and will reimburse you for the rest, such as your car rental, cab fare, hotel room, and meals. It’s customary that you pick up certain non-essential expenses, such as long distance phone calls from your hotel room, or the bar tab from the lounge in the hotel lobby.
A few years ago, a client company of mine flew a candidate to Los Angeles for an interview. The candidate, unfortunately, was unemployed at the time, and was in pretty dire financial straits. He charged the phone calls he made to his wife back in Wyoming and all his dry cleaning expenses (he only brought one shirt with him for two days of interviewing) to the company. When they got his expense voucher a few days later, they got pretty upset — they never expected to pay for all these add-ons. It was too bad, too, because he was generally well received when he interviewed. I’d hate to think it was these little charges that were responsible for his not getting a job he really wanted.
The best time to arrive for an interview is precisely when you’re scheduled, not early or late. It can irk an employer to be told that the candidate for a 2 o’clock appointment is waiting in the lobby at one thirty-five. The employer will either become distracted knowing there’s someone hanging around waiting to see him, or he’ll scramble to rearrange his schedule to accommodate the candidate, which disrupts the rest of his day. If your appointment is at two, then arrive at two.
If for some reason you’re running late, call ahead to ask if you can reschedule for later the same day, or if not, later in the week. If something unexpected happens that you have no control over, simply explain the situation to the employer when you arrive.
I placed a candidate named Alan recently, who was over an hour late to his first interview. He’d been caught in a monstrous traffic jam and was unable to call ahead; but fortunately, he handled the situation like a real pro. When he arrived, he apologized for being late, and got right down to the business of interviewing. He simply put all the anxiety and frustration behind him, so that he could concentrate on the reason he was there, not the reason he was late.
If you’re ever caught in a situation like Alan was, stay cool, take a deep breath, and remove whatever misfortune befell you from your mind.
Four: Name and Title of the Interviewer(s)
When you arrange the interview, find out who you’ll be talking to, and what their function is within the company. Will you be speaking with the hiring manager? The manager from another department? The personnel director? The internal recruiter? A peer level employee or subordinate? A staff industrial psychologist?
You might already know the person. If that’s the case, you’re ahead of the game. If not, send out feelers among your own contacts within your industry, or look in your industry’s trade publications to see if the person you’re going to be meeting is distinguished in any way.
It’s also helpful to find out whether you and the person you’ll be meeting have any commonalities or interconnecting points of interest, in the way of origins (“Hey, you’re also from Wisconsin?”), schools (“My brother went to Duke, too. How did you like it?”), professional achievements (“My article appeared in Ad Week a month after yours did.”), or personal interests (“I heard you were the Nebraska state ping pong champion. We’ll have to get together sometime for a match.”). These tidbits can break the ice when an interview begins, and create a bond with the interviewer.
Five: Understanding the Company’s Hiring Procedure
To correctly gauge the sequence of events surrounding or following your first interview, ask these questions:
- Can you describe to me, step by step, the hiring procedure for this position?This is important to ask, because you want to find out if (and when) the company needs to schedule a second or third level interview. Some companies will make hiring decisions on the spot; others will take months of meetings and endless signatures to process a simple request for a second interview.
- Will I be asked to take any tests?And if so, what are they, and how long will they take to administer? Proctor & Gamble, for many of its professional positions, requires candidates to take a one-hour math and abstract reasoning test. Some companies require a full day of psychological, aptitude, technical skill, and intelligence testing. With most companies, failure to pass the tests means automatic elimination from consideration.Most drug tests are simply referred to as “physicals,” and may take several days to schedule and process. Often, you’ll have to use your own doctor or clinic.
- How long will it take before you reach a decision?This will help you measure your progress through the hiring process, and could spare you from getting the jitters if you don’t hear something immediately.I once got bent out of shape because a new client company was taking a long time to make a decision whether to bring back one of my candidates for a second interview. Later, I found in my original notes that the company was right on schedule; they’d told me up front that it would take them several weeks to reach a decision. As it turns out, I had no reason to complain.
- Do you currently have any finalists?This question lets you know if you’ve entered the race late, and your interview with the company is only a formality. In a situation like this, isn’t it best to know where you stand?
- Who will be making the hiring decision?Find out if the decision will be made by a committee. If it is, must the committee come to a unanimous agreement? Or, will the decision be based on the recommendation of a single person?The more information you can dig up about the hiring procedure, the better you’ll be able to give a more confident, thoughtful interview. What’s more, arriving at an interview armed with a bastion of facts will help you shield yourself from the fear that occurs as a result of feeling out of control.
Six: Background Information On the Company
While the amount of background information you can gather about a company is practically endless, it would be ludicrous to try to become a walking encyclopedia of corporate trivia. However, knowing something in each of these categories should significantly improve your odds of getting hired:
- The company’s personnel — who the major players are, who was recently hired or let go. It’s also a good idea to know something of the history of the company, and who the founders were. For example, if you were interviewing for IBM, it might be considered a faux pas to look puzzled and ask, “Who?” at mention of the name Thomas Watson, Sr.
- The company’s basic structure — what products or services they provide to which customers, what the various divisions are, and whether they’re privately or publicly held.
- The company’s vital signs — how the company is doing financially. Are they solvent or struggling? Are they involved in a hostile takeover, or merging with another company? How’s their stock faring? You get the idea. Many of my candidates like to look through Value Line before they interview, so they can talk intelligently about the company’s financial picture.
- The company’s divisional or departmental details — the changes that are taking place that could potentially affect the position you’re interviewing for. Is there a new product introduction or marketing strategy in the works? Or how about an overhaul in the company’s accounting methods, capital equipment, or computer system?
By arriving for your interview adequately briefed, you’ll make a strong impression on the interviewer. Best of all, you can spend your interviewing time discussing your background and the company’s needs, not the corporate biography, or company financial report.
Seven: A Complete List of Questions You Want to Ask.
During the course of an interview, your dialogue with the other person will spawn a number of questions spontaneously. However, there may be important issues to discuss which will never come up unless you take the initiative. For that reason, you should bring a list of questions with you that will address these issues, so that you don’t leave the interview uninformed.
Premeditated questions can be grouped into four different categories:
- Company questions deal with the organization, direction, policies, stability, growth, market share, and new products or services of the prospective company or department;
- Industry questions deal with the health, growth, change, technological advancement, and personnel of the industry as a whole;
- Position questions deal with the scope, responsibilities, travel, compensation policies, and reporting structure of the position you’re interviewing for; and
- Opportunity questions deal with your own potential for growth or advancement within the company or its divisions, and the likely timetable for promotion.
You may have specific interests or concerns surrounding topics in each category. For example, if you’re interviewing with a computer manufacturer, you may want to ask about the future growth of the industry. Or, let’s say you’re interviewing for a position with a company that’s known for its high rate of personnel turnover. You might want to prepare a carefully worded question that deals with that issue.
Leave Your Laundry List at Home
Naturally, you need to be careful not to come on too strong by asking too many questions — it may turn the interviewer off. Presumably, if there’s mutual interest, you’ll get all your questions answered at a subsequent interview. The general rule of thumb is to limit the number of premeditated questions to about a dozen or less. While it’s true that you’ll be interviewing the company as much as they’ll be interviewing you, the last thing you want to do is turn a dialogue into an inquisition, or come across as a walking encyclopedia of corporate trivia.
You should also be aware that there’s one specific taboo to first-level interviewing, in terms of the questions you should ask. Never, ever bring up the issue of salary or benefits. If the employer initiates a dialogue surrounding these issues, and asks if you have any questions, fine.
But if it appears to the employer that your primary motivation for changing jobs is the new company’s compensation or benefit package, you’ll be out the door quicker than a bolt of lightning. Employers get chills of fear and loathing when they think you’re only on the job market to feather your nest at their expense. They visualize your employment with them as a short term, non-committal, career leveraging maneuver, and understandably, want to avoid being victimized.
Early in my career as a recruiter, I arranged an interview for a qualified candidate with a client company. After the interview, I called Shelly, the employer, to debrief her.
“Well, your candidate didn’t do so well,” Shelly said.
“Really? I thought he had the perfect background.”
“That wasn’t the problem. I just didn’t like the way he handled the interview.”
“I spent over an hour with him, telling him everything about the company, and introducing him to all the key people,” Shelly said. “I even gave him an extensive tour of the manufacturing area.”
“And then, I brought him back to my office, and we sat down to talk about what he’d seen. I asked him if he had any questions.”
“And did he?”
“Yes. That’s when the interview ended. He looked me straight in the eye and asked, ‘What are your benefits?’”
“And I got up,” Shelly said, “and walked him right out the door.”
Don’t misunderstand me. The candidate’s actions in no way reflected on his abilities or his character; his intentions were perfectly honorable. But after that incident (which cost the candidate a job and me a placement fee), I learned to caution interviewees not to initiate the subject of salary or benefits.
My suggestion is to take the John F. Kennedy approach to interviewing: “Ask not what your company can do for you, ask what you can do for your company.”
This way, you can present yourself as a loyal, hard-working, virtuous, and dedicated candidate, rather than as an opportunistic job-hopper who’d prefer to live off the fat of the land.
While it’s unthinkable to accept or even consider a job without first knowing the financial rewards (or the details of the benefit package), there are better and more timely ways to broach the subject, without endangering your candidacy.
Interview preparation is perhaps the single most overlooked aspect of the job changing process. A candidate who’s fired up and ready to go at the time of the interview has a tremendous advantage over a candidate who’s not.
The more carefully you prepare for your interview, the better your chances of getting hired.
By Bill Radin
Career Development Reports
Speaking with colleagues and clients, it seems that many of us are still fire-fighting and have lost our edge as it regards to strategic and critical thinking. Although a bit simplistic, I found this artical interesting and a good starting point for getting back to leading versus reaction. Some of the reader comments are very thought-provoking as well.
What kind of “what if” thinking have you practiced lately?
Alison Green does a great job explaining why taking a counter offer is not a good play.
In over 25 years of placements, I can only remember one or two instances where this worked out for a candidate for the long term – and these were A players. If you are generally happy with your job and it’s only about the pay, ask for the raise first before you go job-shopping and give compelling reasons why you deserve it.
Go to the link for the full story http://news.yahoo.com/why-shouldnt-counteroffer-133221049.html
During your interview you are telling a story about yourself. Michael Kinsman offers some valid thoughts as to show and tell why you would be the right person for the job.
Technology professionals enjoyed their largest annual salary growth since 2008, according to the latest Dice Tech Salary Survey. After two straight years of wages remaining nearly flat, tech professionals on average garnered salary increases of more than 2%, boosting their average annual wage to $81,327 from $79,384 in 2010.
A more considerable jump was noted in both size of average bonuses, up 8% to $8,769, and the number of technology professionals receiving bonuses: 32% in 2011, compared with 29% in 2010 and 24% in 2009. The industries most likely to pay out bonuses: Telecom, Hardware, Banking, Utilities/Energy and Software.
For the full report: