Around sixty years back Christian (1960) pointed out that no industrial firm has its marketing work force problem really solved. With constantly growing economy the marketing work force problem persists. Even today, organizations face major difficulties in recruiting and retaining salespeople. On the other hand, the highly competitive market and tough margins are forcing employers to become more demanding of salespeople skillsets. At the same time sales people turnover brings higher costs in terms of lost sales and abandoned sales territories in addition to the costs associated with recruitment, training and managing new salespeople (Darmon, 2008). Furthermore, when a salesperson leaves an organization he carries valuable market information and customers along with him. In view of this, studying salespersons' retention remains an important research priority (Jones et al., 1996).
The basic question, then, centers on identifying the predictors those can influence employee intention to remain with current organization. An examination of existing research results into two important factors-leadership and employee empowerment that foster high intention to remain. In addition, in modern sales context, it is posited that critical thinking skills of salespeople will have significant relationship with intention to remain. Earlier research has demonstrated that leader behavior had positive influence on employee intention to remain (Albrecht & Andreetta, 2011; Chen et al., 2011). Despite recognition that an appropriate leader behavior can enhance employee intention to remain, there is limited research evaluating mechanism by which leadership behavior influences employee intention to remain. In understanding the mechanism by which leaders influence subordinates intention to remain, two concepts attracted much interest of researchers. They are critical thinking skills and empowerment. There exists handful research on empowerment relating to employee intention to remain (Klerk & Marius, 2014), but very dismal research on association between critical thinking skills and intention to remain. Recent research advised that salespeople should be trained on critical thinking skills for their better performance (Cecilia et al., 2015). Hopkins, Raymond & Carlson (2011) suggested that improved skillset is required by the changing role of salesperson in this milieu. Cecilia et al. (2015) opines that today's business environment is labeled by globalization, competition, technology and changing demographics and suggested that salespeople today need critical thinking skills to effectively perform in more challenging and multifaceted roles.
Employee retention is one of the important enduring managerial issues faced by employers. This issue is more relevant in highly demanding sales job. Past research demonstrated impact of employee attrition or intention to leave behavior on organizational performance. In response to this, many organizations are implementing different strategies to enhance employee intention to remain. However, the dynamics of sales people management and motivation is different. Salespeople work in a highly competitive and challenging job environment. In addition, customers are informative and demanding. In this context, this research tries to examine whether there is any relationship between leader behavior and employee intention to remain. The research questions that are to be discussed in this paper are: 1) is there a positive relationship between leadership and intention to remain, 2) what are the mechanisms that leaders adapt to foster intention to remain and 3) which mechanism yields better result.
Present study investigates influence of leadership and two mechanisms (critical thinking and empowerment) on intention to remain, more specifically, how far leader behavior, encouragement to subordinates to think critically and empowering behavior will influence salespersons intention to remain. This paper advances the existing literature by linking leadership, critical thinking and empowerment as predictors for sales people intention to remain. The following section discusses relevant literature. Then, methodology, data analysis, results and discussion are presented. Finally, recommendations are drawn.
The topic of leadership is extensively used in academic research. Academicians are interested in knowing who leaders are, what they do, how they do and how they exert power on followers to reach organizational goals. Earlier research related leadership with different outcome variables like, job satisfaction (Dutta & Sahney, 2016; Musinguzi et al., 2017) employee performance (Huang et al., 2016) commitment (Moldogaziev, 2014) empowerment (Newman et al., 2017) intention to stay (Chami & Thomas, 2013; Furtado et al., 2011; Mike, 2015).
Importantly leadership had shown significant positive effect on employee intention to remain. Authentic leadership was negatively related to employee turnover intention (Gatling et al., 2016). Similarly, authentic leadership had significant negative influence on employee intention to quit (Munyaka et al., 2017). On the other hand, transformational leadership behaviors significantly influenced subordinates intention to stay (Chami & Thomas, 2013; Furtado et al., 2011; Mike, 2015). In another context servant leadership effected turnover intention through a mediated effect of organizational commitment (Jaramillo et al., 2009). Kashyap & Santosh (2014) reported that servant leadership influenced positive relationship with perceived employee retention intentions. Support leadership dimension of path- goal leadership style was most highly correlated with reduced group members' turnover intention (Dixon & Laura, 2010). Employee perceptions of retention were impacted by leader behavior (Murrell-Jones, 2012). Mekraz & Raghava (2016) reported negative correlation between leadership and employee turnover rate. The leader's behavior with subordinates and the resulting dissatisfaction was one of the major reasons employees leaving their job (Jones et al., 1996; Mulki & Fernando, 2011). On the same line, DeConinck & Dean (2004) reported that subordinates satisfaction with the leader was a strong predictor of employee turnover intentions. As against to positive association between leadership and intention to remain no association was found between leadership style and retention (Carol, 2004).
Intention to Remain
Physical and mental burnout components were significant in explaining worker's intention to leave (Weisberg, 1994). Weisberg suggested that by implementing appropriate strategies managers can reduce employee turnover. Barnes et al. (1998) recommended that management should provide supportive environment to reduce employee turnover. Loyalty to supervisor was positively associated with intention to stay (Chen, 2001). Quality of supervision was significantly correlated with intention to leave (Wilson, 2015). Recent studies indicated that leader behaviors lead to low turnover intentions (Albrecht & Andreetta, 2011; Chen et al., 2011).
Watson & Glaser (1964 & 1994) were pioneers in the conceptualization and measurement of critical thinking. They conceptualized critical thinking as a composite of attitudes, knowledge and skills. Sternberg (1986) defined critical thinking as "the mental processes, strategies and representations people use to solve problems, make decision and learn new concepts." Novelli & Sylvester (1993) believed that critical thinking was directly associated with the ability to generate and operate from multiple perspectives that inform a multilogical view.
Lassk et al. (2012) suggested that sales education should strive to develop critical thinking skills of salespeople. According to Cecilia et al. (2015), salespeople should be trained on critical thinking skills for their better performance. Present day, many organizations are encouraging their salespeople to think critically and asking sales managers to train salespeople in critical thinking skills. It is strongly advocated that to enhance the critical thinking skills of salespeople, managers need to coach, mentor and support salespeople. Furthermore, when salespersons are supported to think in innovate and unconventional way and design novel strategies to meet customer expectations will make salespersons work interesting and exciting and lead to higher intentions to remain.
The concept of empowerment promotes the idea that leaders share power and decision-making processes with followers to improve performance (Wagner, 1994). Deci et al. (1989) argued that leader should play critical role in providing subordinates with empowering experiences because the characteristics of work shaped by the leader contribute directly to followers' intrinsic task motivation. Earlier research reported significant positive impact of empowerment on job satisfaction, work productivity, task performance (Menon, 2001; Spreitzer, 1995; Thomas & Velthouse, 1990), employee motivation and creativity (George & Zhou, 2007; Zhang & Kathryn, 2010). Significant positive...