5 Signs You’re in a Dead-End Relationship With Your Employees and What to Do About It

Paul Simon knew, there must be “50 Ways to Leave your Lover”. But painful relationships are not confined to romance; they occur in today’s workplace, surfacing as disengagement and apathy in the daily grind of work. They also can be avoided. If we recognize the signs of a dead end employer-employee relationship and what workforce strategies employers can launch, we can bring the magic back.

Bringing the Magic Back to Workforce Strategy

Unless you’re from the future, you employ people not robots. So the five symptoms of a dead end employer-employee relationship are similar to romantic human relationships stuck in neutral and going nowhere.

  1. Boredom

Really look at your employees while working. Do they look like they would rather be somewhere, anywhere, else? If your employees lack the enthusiasm to care, the job is misaligned, or the managers do not have the skills to motivate. Boredom is your red flag that productivity in the company is about to decline. Don’t count on Employee ROI going higher this quarter. Or get some robots.

  1. Frustration

Is the team with you, or opposing you at every turn? Resistance means managers and employees are not on the same wavelength when it comes to workforce strategy. Successful companies leverage impatience into urgency to drive change and excitement in the work. Impatience is not frustration. Playing devil’s advocate or pushing for continuous improvement is not the same as feeling annoyed or angry that underpins contempt. In many situations, frustration also signals a lack of cohesiveness among peers. Not a problem with robots. Just saying.

  1. Cheating

Often covert, lack of desire to work together manifests in many ways. A manager may long to recruit other people or fail to advocate for their direct reports to get new projects. Alternately, employees look for greener grass and start quietly plying their networks for new opportunities. Many times, workers are provoked to look elsewhere out of fear or lack of trust in their employer. Signs of an employee’s drop in loyalty in a hot job market include searching for open positions on the sly  during lunchtime or unexplained absences are a major sign their job is about to get dumped.

  1. Isolation

Avoiding communication with a manager is a fire alarm that the good will has stopped flowing within the workforce strategy. While some amount of workplace communications inevitably fail due to time constraints, voicemail, emails, text messages, and meeting requests that consistently receive no response show a lack of commitment. If you hear nothing, say something.

  1. Unclear future

During performance appraisals, a conversation based solely on the past reinforces an employee who does not have future in the company. Employees who are hard pressed to articulate a career trajectory at the organization may feel stuck. People don’t like to feel stuck for long, so they leave. In those cases, the career path may be too near sighted to illustrate a future employee-employer relationship. And clearly, the future is robots.


Workforce Strategy Employee Retention Idea #44: Get Specific

Many companies attempt to use employee surveys and end up confused or overwhelmed, leading them to question if surveys really work. Many are concerned about employees responding truthfully or at all. Other fear that surveys may adeptly identify problems without leading to solutions. But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

Employee surveys are a delicate art that, when done correctly, will point companies to the right workforce strategy. The key is in phrasing the question the right way. Keep your questions as direct, clean, and simple as possible to gauge where exactly the gaps are when it comes to productivity and trust. Try breaking down each question to its smallest units instead of using long, descriptive questions that get at multiple items. Retensa took years to hone a validated commitment survey because every nuance matters. Relationships in and out of the workplace are all about the details; if a problem can be located, a workforce strategy solution can be crafted.

To get out of employee relationship gridlock, email requests@retensa.com to speak with a survey specialist. We’re here to bring the love back, one survey at a time.


How to Keep the Love Alive in a Long Distance Relationship with your Workforce

The advent of remote work brings with it a set of challenges. As speed, flexibility, and collaboration become the bottlenecks of today’s workplace, a whole new set of norms exist now. Companies looking to build a high performance culture confront the challenge of sustaining employee motivation without face to face interaction. How can employers make sure their employees stay in love with their work and the company, despite being in a long distance, remote relationship? Employee surveys that measure appreciation and engagement are the key to keeping the love alive.

Employee Motivation at a Distance: Success Story

For those who believe that out of sight always equals out of mind, consider the case of Collage.com, which successfully motivates a 100% remote workforce. In this Glassdoor article, CEO Joe Golden recounts the drivers of his culture’s success. Although meetings occur over videoconferencing, one-on-one and team meetings are “extremely frequent.”[1] Curiously, Golden hints at what has made this strategy a success,

Remote work isn’t a good fit for anyone who isn’t a strong communicator since it’s even more important to communicate well when everyone isn’t in the same physical office. It’s also important for anyone who works in a remote setting to be self-motivated since there’s no one physically with you to ensure you stay on task.[2]

His words highlight the role that recruiting to retain plays in employee motivation. Here, an understanding of the type of employee that will do well in this environment drives positive outcomes. They get it right from the beginning by investing a great deal of energy in the recruiting and onboarding process. New hires spend extensive effort and time in the first weeks in direct interaction with teammates and supervisors.[3]

Survey Indicators to Boost Employee Motivation

Employee surveys make the difference between what you think is going on, and a clear understanding of work culture and level of employee motivation. They increase the depth of this knowledge by articulating the workforce’s state of appreciation and engagement. While every company has a different way of understanding itself, appreciation and engagement are universal gauges to predict success (two commitment indicators in CAPLET survey methodology).

Appreciation is the first sign that employees feel heard and valued. A lack of appreciation towards any element of the work environment directly impacts how employees perceive the value of their productivity. Whether it be working long hours, volunteering for a hard project, or improving collaboration skills, it is best to reinforce behavior through recognition of their efforts. As most communication is non-verbal, companies lack the data to know how much their employees feel appreciation. And in a long distance relationship, it is even more crucial for appreciation to be a part of the company culture. One indispensable insight managers need to know when managing a remote workforce is to validate how each and every employee is important to getting the job done, and measuring their efforts through employee surveys.

Long distance relationships dissolve if we don’t engage one another. That is why engagement is the second key to managing remote employees. To determine how employees feel about workload and how meaningful they believe it to be, we measure it. This way, managers can use that information to better support the actual work being done. The goal in any relationship is to see if there is enough magic to advance to the next level. So are you moving in (i.e. finding opportunities for advancement) or moving out (i.e. quitting)? Direction and intention is a hard thing to judge in the interview process, as even potential slacker candidates will put on their best performance. Employee surveys determine if management has gone all-in when it comes to making sure their teams are at peak and engaged to the fullest.

Employee Retention Idea #46: The 2 Minute Remote Worker Hug

It’s easy to take remote workers for granted. Asking meaningful questions keeps a long distance relationship healthy. Whether it’s a validated Commitment Survey, or taking 2 minutes to ask your remote employee “How can I help you?” or “What can we provide to successfully launch this project?” – take the time now before you find yourself speed dating for a new replacement.  While any human relationship happening at a distance is going to face some challenges, focused and support of remote work can offer tremendous benefit to a company’s workforce morale. For tricks to keep the employee motivation flame burning with your long distance workers, email requests@retensa.com.


[1] Jackson, Amy Elisa. (2017, March 20). How One CEO Successfully Built A 100% Remote Workforce. Glassdoor. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/collage-com-ceo/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


Posted: 5/26/2017

5 Talent Retention Strategies We Learn from Cinco de Mayo

While most people associate Cinco de Mayo with carne asada, mariachi music, and a zesty tequila, there is a powerful allegory about the employee retention strategy behind all the festivities. These five enchiladas of wisdom revealed by the underdog victory at the Battle of Puebla offers strong insights intro talent retention strategies.

Talent Retention Strategies Hot Tamale #1: Know what You’re up Against

When the Mexicans triumphed over the French, it was a major upset. Not only were the French an undefeated military force, the Mexicans lacked both numbers and resources to defend themselves.[1] Did they cower in fear from this challenge, even though the odds were stacked against them? Spoiler alert…No.

They took to battle with an intelligent strategy which brought to life what may have seemed an impossible victory.[2]

To apply this history lesson to the modern day workforce, employers are fighting a battle to retain key employees in a hot economy. Yet many of them are fighting the war without knowing they are in one. Lacking data on the enemy, without a clear plan of action or program to guide them on the battlefield, talent consistently leaves. Is it for a higher salary? Many firms do not have a reliable method to capture what employees really values. It is a bloodbath when companies lack the proper HR metrics and retention programs to defend themselves. Having a full arsenal of diagnostic data and talent analytics is the first step to winning the war.

Talent Retention Strategies Hot Tamale #2: Foster a Culture of Commitment

To say that the Mexican army was a motley crew is an understatement. They were shabby and disheveled compared to their French counterparts. However, they were unified in their spirit.[3] Loyalty and Connectedness fortified their attack against a greater foe.

For organizations and startups who may be the small fish in el mar grande, how committed is your culture to triumph? In the present day, companies can achieve solidarity by using focused employee pulse surveys that determine whether or not workers are prepared to defend the organization’s well-being. Gain insights into how Connected and Loyal your organization is by understanding Commitment Indicators. No one is safe from technology disruptors that impact the fall and rise of organizations. A culture of commitment is the safeguard a businesses can leverage to overthrow any competitor.

Talent Retention Strategies Hot Tamale #3: Recognize & Celebrate the Small Wins

Interestingly, the underdog’s victory in the Battle at Puebla was not the tactical turning point. It took years for Mexico to win the whole enchilada when the French finally retreated in defeat.[4] The battle was a symbolic victory that carried more meaning in its story than in its strategic gains. It was a small piece of recognition that blew up into a celebration of a moment of triumph.

Modern day employers can use this same tactic to inspire their workforce. Celebrating each and every victory, no matter how minor, is a way to applaud the people, over and over again. It is one of the most successful staff retention strategies as it reminds employees of their power over, and impact on, the bigger goal they work towards. By selling, in a sense, the merits of what happens day to day in the workplace, companies create a culture of recognition. When we set visible goals for our teams, departments, and organization, there is immense power in celebrating the achievements of those milestones together.

Talent Retention Strategies Hot Tamale #4: Create Workplace Traditions with Symbolism

This holiday is often interpreted to be the Mexican “Fourth of July”. , The historical facts paint a picture that implies nothing of the sort. Cinco de Mayo is bigger than Mexico – it became an international celebration of freedom because the ritual itself carries this meaning. Within the workforce, staff retention strategies thrive when tradition and celebration are present. For example, a company may plant a seed in a flower pot for every new employee that joins the organization. The flower’s growth represents a symbol of the individual’s progress and expansion of the company as a whole. Culture is defined by traditions and symbolic gestures that go deeper than what the brand means to the outside world. Build culture by paying attention to recurrent events that enforce the brand and celebrate the vision of what it means to be part of the organization.

Talent Retention Strategies Hot Tamale #5: Hire the Right Talent

The Mexican army was incredibly tight on resources and means. Their strength was in recruitment. Quite simply, they enlisted the right people who stuck around even when times got tough. This is what led to their ultimate triumph.

Likewise, companies who want to dominate a competitive industry get the best employees who want to stay on the mission. Recruiting to retain is one of the most potent staff retention strategies that this Cinco de Mayo allegory brings to light. Before starting the recruitment process, identify who would be the most successful person for the job, for the team, and for the organization’s culture. Culture fit and mission/vision alignment in a new hire substantially improves goal attainment and extends tenure. In finding people willing to dig deeper, we are more resilient when competition or disruptors change the game. So celebrate Cinco de Mayo by using what we have to build a workforce that will last.

Hungry for more Retention Tamales? Staff retention strategies have a place in a company’s talent arsenal every day of the year as the Cinco de Mayo fiesta happens year round. For employee retention advice that comes with a side of guacamole, email requests@retensa.com.


[1] History.com staff. (2009). Cinco de Mayo. History.com, A+E Networks. Retrieved on April 21, 2017 from http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo

[2] Gilliam, Ron. (2017, January 20). “Viva El Cinco de Mayo!” The Battle of Puebla. Warfare History Network. Retrieved from http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/military-history/viva-el-cinco-de-mayo-the-battle-of-puebla/

[3] History.com staff. (2009). Cinco de Mayo. History.com, A+E Networks. Retrieved on April 21, 2017 from http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo

[4] History.com staff. (2009). Cinco de Mayo. History.com, A+E Networks. Retrieved on April 21, 2017 from http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo


Posted: 5/4/2017

If aliens are 1480 light years away, their employees are very happy

In case you have not heard, there is a star behaving oddly in a nearby chunk of our milky way.

Let’s call it an “odd star,” since it’s known by twelve people as KIC 8462852, and may or may not be a “god star,” or one with highly intelligent life around it.

The intelligent life debate and details of the situation are well covered by the Royal Astronomical Society, or reviewed by Time Magazine, and are not the focus in this post.

The focus here, and what I can tell you, is that if there is an advanced civilization orbiting around a star in the constellation Cygnus, 94% or more of their voluntary workforce is engaged.

Have we surveyed the collective workforce of that indistinguishable planet?

No. Not yet.

So how can I be so sure?

Three reasons:

  • Biology
  • Potential Energy
  • Inevitability

1) Biology:

An advanced society would be a highly collaborative operation. Leveraging the collective effort of synchronized behavior achieves spectacular results. We are wired to work together. Even “simple” earthly creatures mastered this. Ever seen ants take down a mouse?

A single spider’s web may be beautiful. But watching just about anything that bees do is exhausting. They constantly produce a high-quality unperishable consumer good, in days, without any mileage reimbursement.

It takes a hive to achieve that. Intelligent life likes friends.

Like the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest structure, people worked together to leave you equally daunted, and impressed.

Engaged collaboration of a group, aimed toward a common goal, is a proven recipe for results. Mankind wandered before our tribes formed villages. Over time, village alliances provided security, stability, and prosperity. However, humans are not completely there yet. Burj Khalifa construction labor practices were criticized for mistreating workers. We, we reluctantly admit, are not an advanced civilization. Though we are learning. With the wisdom of crowds ascending, a civilization that evolves to fully harness the power of its resources, sentient and natural, would do so far more effectively by working together.

Now picture the current United States congress. Not working together looks like that.

In most creatures, there are disagreements, even fighting. There’s no reason to believe advanced beings would not disagree. What is most likely is that when they do agree, the outcomes are profound. Energy investment has high returns, because the beings would coordinate the synchronistic behaviors to most efficiently do so.

2) Potential Energy

We know that engaged employees deliver 32 to 48% higher output. Or make 32 to 48% fewer mistakes, or make more sales calls, or produce tastier artisanal cheeses. People vested in the outcome will outlay the discretionary productivity between what they could do, and what they are capable of doing. The difference is their potential. Our planet has a “potential gap” quite wide, since between 30 to 70% of the current workforce is disengaged. A disengaged worker does not want to do the work they are doing.

Fast forward to Earth 100 years from now, and that number will seem unfathomable. Like the number of people who had a phone 100 years ago. It’s not conducive to unleashing human potential.

We are beginning to close the engagement gap, behavioral science, organizational psychology, and talent pulse software merges. Being informed, we can take action sooner, to almost real-time, to address breakdowns in employee life-cycle. In some years, sentiment analysis will be passive-interpretative technology, like wearable fitness monitors are today. And each of us will know the days we excel, or push ourselves to the edge, and so will someone else. Because accountability may suck at times, but it makes us better. We will still have the choice to sit on the couch and binge watch television shows, but we won’t as much. The experience of achieving our potential is too interesting to ignore for long.

3) Inevitability:

Achieving our potential is desired by both sides. You want to do awesome, and I want you to be awesome. Everybody wins. When everyone wins, choices change, behavioral shifts occur. Sometimes in inches, sometimes in chaos. But we get there, and the alternative becomes quaint, or barbaric. It is inevitable that humans will like our jobs. Not because we have to, but because we want to so much. The gaping inefficiency of today’s situation is too expensive, and in too few people’s interest to sustain. So a planet, with satellites circling that provide instantaneous access to all known answers to all known questions, will have a race of beings that will know what job they want, and that’s what they’ll do, until they don’t want to (which is the 6% invariably in transition, no system is perfect).

So while this is all speculation since the “odd star” debates continue, consider where your organization is today. How collaborative are your managers with staff? What is the gap in leadership potential? How far are you in the inevitability curve toward everyone in the right seats, on the right bus, in the right direction?

If you think we’re wrong about all of this, you can be the first to prove it. Just do this: If we do find E.T., or Chewbacca, or little green men: Allow us to survey them.


Posted: 10/21/2015

Ineffective Ways of Engaging Employees

“It is not efficient to hold people in the same role accountable for perfecting exactly the same style.” – Gallup Organization, Gallup Management Journal, September 2002

Engaging employees in desired work-related behaviors: focus on strengths.

In a recent survey the Gallup Organization found that 58% of respondents cannot say, “I know what is expected of me at work.” Clarifying how an employee’s position and performance relates to the organization’s goals allows employees to grasp how their roles directly impact the organization’s success. Results of recent research have indicated that organizations succeed at engaging employees when they are given opportunities to build on their talents. However, workers who are expected to perform tasks that encompass their weaknesses will become less engaged. Subjective performance appraisals decrease employee engagement, especially if they are linked to compensation. According to, “The Four Disciplines of Sustainable Growth,” in the Gallup Management Journal, dredging up past behavior to substantiate negative ratings or employees devoting substantial amounts of time working on weaknesses can lead to a loss of productivity. Employees who are uncertain about how their efforts are valued can disengage and feel apprehensive about their future in the organization, causing organizations to lose employees that have high potential to succeed.

Focusing on outcomes can overlook how employees achieve desired results.

By identifying and supporting employees’ strengths, you can demonstrate that you value their contributions to the organization’s goals. According to Gallup Research, 20% of respondents strongly agree with the statement, “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” Not every employee is meant to climb the corporate ladder; some employees prefer to improve their status by growing within their role. Allowing employees to own their work can be more satisfying than advancing them through the managerial ranks and being responsible for others’ work. In fact, they may find supervising employees stressful because it detracts them from their work. Keeping an employee from perceiving themselves as successful is (indirectly or directly) one of the most dominant root causes of disengagement and ultimately turnover.

Teaching supervisors and managers how to identify specific talents that each employee possesses allows your organization to invest its training budget more efficiently and succeed at engaging employees. Creating development opportunities that encompass an employee’s talents reinforces the belief that the organization values their accomplishments. This approach bolsters employee engagement and improves many skill sets as opposed to implementing remedial steps to only improve weaknesses.