Beware the Ides of March: 3 Ways Your Company is the Julius Caesar of Employee Turnover

Leadership can be deadly. The unfortunate demise of Caesar, the Roman Emperor assassinated by his own senators, exemplifies how bad things can get when leaders ignore employees. If the following sounds like your organization, you may be bound for some employee turnover this Ides of March.

Ignoring the Predictions

Caesar’s death was foreshadowed by a soothsayer who predicted that the bright day would bring forth the adder. Still he chose to turn a deaf ear to how effective his leadership was. While the ancient Romans relied on fortunetellers, modern day leaders have more scientific methods to predict low employee morale. Talent analytics using employee benchmarks, HR metrics, and turnover rates can capture the wavering vital signs of a company. Companies who take advantage of predictive analytics are more accurate in how they retain staff, decrease employee turnover, improve company brand, and increase productivity. Ignoring predictions in today’s workplace will at minimum, create patterns of workplace inefficiency, and at worst, create a modern day Ides of March where turnover and C-Suite changes put the company’s future at stake.

Failing to Solicit Feedback

Caesar was unaware of how poor employee-employer relations were within his organization. In modern times, formal and informal performance assessments, upwards evaluations, 360 degree feedback, and exit interviews give managers insight into employee appreciation and trust. The 360 degree survey, for example, is a developmental (rather than punitive) tool which allows leaders to see their impact over a period of time. In Caesar’s case, he failed to solicit feedback before and after his reforms. It is especially important to be in tune with employee sentiment before and after key company initiatives. When done well it drives cultural change, and also allows us to measure the progress and ROI. Companies who don’t pay attention to how their people feel will eventually find out the hard way.

Undervaluing High Performers

Brutus, Caesar’s second in command, was the one whose betrayal dealt the most powerful blow. As the poignant “Et tu, Brute?” conveys, Caesar was in the dark about his performance from the colleague he valued most. Critical to success for any business is preserving human capital. In most organizations, a few aspects are universal. Provide developmental opportunities, work/life balance, and actively solicit feedback from the most influential people at the company. Failing to acknowledge the importance of human capital can inspire staff to take their talents elsewhere, often into the hands of competition. Employee turnover of key staff can incite a wave of disloyalty that inspires coworkers to take to the street.

Whether it is ancient Rome or the modern day call center, hospital, or office, managerial dysfunction happens even to the strongest of leaders. While not as carnal as the Ides of March, systemic employee turnover can be devastating.

Employee Retention Idea #42

Start small with your big data and heed your predictions! Take advantage of the data you collect already and trend it over a timeline of 3, 6, and 12 months. Compare organizational metrics currently tracked (e.g. headcount, separations, and performance appraisal scores) across years. Is it up, flat, or turning down? Do you see any red flag trends in the last 2 or 3 years? Bite-sized data reviews (one to two metrics at a time) help you stay in front of any new down-trending finds before they stab you in the back.

The good news is retention is a science. To hear more about how you can leverage predictive analytics or feedback to retain top talent, ask the employee retention experts.


Posted: 3/14/2017

Employee Turnover Means Rocky Road Ahead for Microsoft

The latest shuttering of Microsoft’s Skype office in the London led us to explore the impact of employee turnover for the tech giant. Microsoft reduced its workforce consistently for the last two years and has already announced future plans to lay off around 2,850 employees, as noted in SocialBarrel.

Microsoft and Employee Turnover

These challenging workforce experiences have the potential to shake up the competitive position of Microsoft, as is the case for many large companies who go through a string of such acquisitions. Here are three reasons why.

History of Merger Disappointment

For the tech giants, business combinations typically present great advancements and enormous challenges. On the talent side, managing employee morale through a merger or acquisition can be daunting. Powerlessness in the face of abrupt changes and anxiety become contagious. As the Harvard Business Review estimates the merger failure rate to be somewhere between 70% and 90%, often downsizing is inevitable.

For Microsoft, the vision is often admirable, the task was always integrating (and monetizing) the long list of far-reaching acquisitions (see Yammer, aQuantive, Nokia, and Farecast). And they have hardly begun the largest of them all: LinkedIn.

Highly Competitive Technology Talent Market

In a few ways, tech acquisitions today are different. With low sector unemployment, and high demand, it is unlikely that skilled IT employees are losing sleep over losing their jobs. They also won’t wait around for it. IT employees realize their value in today’s market, especially those with the best certifications. To quote Chason Hecht, employee retention expert and President of Retensa, “Whoever has the best talent wins.” Microsoft-trained employees who find their ways to the ranks of their competitors bodes well for industry rivals such as Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), IBM (IBM), and Oracle (ORCL).

Communication Challenges

Globalization can bring a litany of communication breakdowns. With such a diverse workforce, how does Microsoft motivate across the enterprise? Rapid changes at a company make it hard for employees to know what to expect or even who they report to. Successful companies actively remove information silos. By fostering an atmosphere of collaboration, organizations may increase their productivity.

Does this sound like the state of your organization?

Large companies have the benefit of historical data, as well as an extensive network of employees from which powerful insight can be gathered. Retensa collects diagnostic information to map your firms Employee Life Cycle in order to find, target, reduce and predict turnover. Contact to hear more about how we can help manage employee turnover at your company.


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What to Do When Your Star Salesperson Quits

A company’s sales force is the most difficult to replace.  Most devastating is when your salesperson leaves you for the competition.

Your best employee will quit.  Maybe not this week, or next month, but someday he or she will leave.  The impact on your customers and staff and the financial cost of turnover are substantial. Studies show that employee turnover can cost a company up to 200% of annual employee compensation1. The cost of replacement has exceeded the cost of retention; the higher compensation needed to attract new hires, combined with the cost of necessary training, far exceed the price of retaining current employees2.  A company’s sales force is the most difficult to replace. Most devastating is when your salesperson leaves you for the competition.  When it happens to you, keep this in mind:

Don’t sever the relationship
Upon hearing the words, “I’m giving my notice,” many companies have the employee escorted out of the building. Severing the relationship so bluntly is bad for business; it will demotivate coworkers, reduce productivity, and instigate retaliatory behavior. In reality, the separating employee may still be of great value to you. For example, are his client records up-to-date and easily understood?   Do you know the status of every account?  It’s not about the salesperson; it’s about your clients.  Manage this transition well and clients will stay with you.  Additionally, former employees can be the most useful resource when recruiting.  Those who have held the job previously know the characteristics and skills to look for in a new hire and can also provide a sense of mentorship once the new employee is in place.

Is he leaving or has he already left?
If the employee is planning on leaving, but has not made the ultimate decision, there may be room to make a counteroffer. Open the dialogue by asking the employee, “What can we do to make this work for you?”  Not everyone should get a counteroffer; it is a question of whether the employee’s issues can be addressed and if he is really worth retaining.  If he is committed to leaving, then you need to move quickly onto the next steps.

Where is he headed?
Is the individual staying in the same industry, working at a company where they may still be in contact with your clients?

  1.   Ensure that non-disclosure and non-compete agreements have been signed. This protects your business as well as the relationship you have with your clients. While this should be done upon employment, the sooner the contracts are signed, the better.   The problem with non-competes is that they’re penalty-driven, and negative in nature.  Consider instead “golden handcuffs,” more of a financial reward than a penalty.  Offer your salespeople tuition reimbursement programs, deferred compensation, or salary continuation plans.  If salespeople leave the company prematurely, they lose their chance to reap the reward3.
  2. Identify what made the salesperson successful. Document any knowledge, skills and abilities that made him/her productive and profitable. Asking key clients what they liked best about working with this individual will help in training the next account rep.
  3. Start the hiring process immediately to create a solid applicant pool. Some of the best candidates don’t respond to job postings and advertisements. Instead, they are choosing the companies they want to work for: Make sure you are on their short list of employers4. The retention of quality salespeople begins before recruiting, in your branding process.   Success within your organization should be clearly defined, and must take into account corporate culture, employee personalities, and necessary role requirements.  Due to the demanding nature of a sales career, it is crucial to assess personalities and temperaments of candidates early in the hiring process. Testing does not guarantee you will hire the right person every time, but it is a definite step in the right direction5.

What about your business?

  1. How much more time can he/she give you? If possible, using the employee to train his own replacement can accelerate the new hire’s productivity. He can train the new individual on your company’s culture, systems, and how to succeed at your organization. The first few days of employment is the most formative time for the employee to decide how he feels about your organization and his job. Opinions formed in the first days at a company are very hard to change. Ensure your training program is structured; take the time to be thorough and he will feel valued and welcome. The amount of effort and time put in will reward you in the end.  Remember that hiring a great salesperson is “only half the battle.”  In order to keep your new employee in the long run, invest in his skills in both personal and product knowledge.
  2. Contact the salesperson’s key clients. Ask them what you, as the business owner, can do to help them. Let them know if there is anything they need, they can always contact you. Turnover leaves customers in the dark; a lack of continuity can cause confusion and decreased productivity. As you go forward, impress upon your clients that no single employee is their support system.  Each employee works as a part of a team to provide for them.
  3. If you have not, create a client database now containing key contacts, their history, needs, requirements and also relevant personal information, such as special interests, likes and dislikes. At times like this, it is a valuable tool to give your new hire a head start.
  4. If your new hire is not in place in time for a smooth transition, distribute the workload evenly. Also, consider the separation as a development opportunity for a rising star. Give someone the chance to prove themselves with a new client and be sure to take care of those who get extra work.  Mitigating salesperson turnover is about preserving not only intellectual capital, but also relationship capital, which is more valuable but also easily overlooked.  Many employers are so concerned with separating employees, they forget about those who remain at the company.  Do not forget how turnover affects those left behind; make sure employees are well-informed and offer a forum for them to discuss their concerns openly.

Leading organizations use employee retention strategies to retain knowledge, momentum, and competitive advantage.  Incorporating these practices the next time a salesperson leaves will keep your company moving forward.


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The New Customer: Your Workforce

Pharmaceutical companies create consumer loyalty by promising to improve quality of life. The same approach is becoming adapted as one of the most effective workforce talent management strategies.

“Firms that do not align employee and firm needs increase the likelihood that employees will leave and leave less talented employees behind to finish the job.” –  Chason Hecht, President, Retensa

The greatest impact on the cost of doing business in the past 20 years has been employee turnover.  Losing top talent to the competition has pushed firms to dramatically restructure their hiring, on-boarding, and knowledge-sharing processes.  Most organizations are still struggling with what to provide to their employees to build loyalty.  In the 1980’s, employees looked for performance pay.  In the 1990’s, employees looked for job security.  Employees need change as society changes yet there has always been one common theme:  employees are always looking for something more out of their job.  Halfway through this decade, employees clearly want quality of work life.

At first glance, the term “quality of work life” may seem unclear.  But if you look closer, you may realize you already have the answer.  Improving the quality of life is a fundamental principle of the most successful pharmaceutical companies of our time.  In fact, customers’ “quality of life” is in the mission statements of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.  When thinking of retention, it is this same mission that transcends to your employees’ quality of work life.   When you think about improving the quality of life for your customers, what do you picture?  Someone who lives optimally, achieves their goals and reaches their full potential?  Now envision your employees in those terms.  Are your employees reaching their full potential?

From the job posting to the exit interview, there are a finite number of points of contact in the employee-firm relationship.  It is important to recognize that your company only has these points of contact to build a productive relationship with an employee. Not making this connection leaves the employee-firm relationship to chance where they may, or may not, be engaged by what they do and inspired by who they work for.  Employee turnover occurs over a series of breakdowns in the employee-firm relationship at these points of contact.  Fortunately there are hundreds, and so a company has ample opportunity to make up where they may have fallen behind.  With this new perspective the employee-firm relationship has new meaning, clear opportunities and unyielding strength.

Quality of work life is one key to unlocking the door to employee retention.  By improving the quality of work life, employee’s needs, wants, and expectations are aligned with the company’s. Firms that do not align employee and firm needs increase the likelihood that employees will leave and leave less talented employees behind to finish the job.

In the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry, jobs have become more stressful and complicated.  Although the pharmaceutical industry has lower turnover rates compared to other industries, the cost of turnover is much greater.  With strict regulations and rigid timelines, a research specialist’s resignation leaves your company with a delay in product development and a loss of talent to competitors.  Additionally, when a pharmaceutical representative leaves, they take the company’s relationship capital with them.  These stringent regulations leave employee actions vulnerable to repercussions from their boss, the government, and sometimes even the media making retaining talented employees invaluable.  In order to retain your employees and combat turnover a proactive strategy is critical.    We cannot tell you what to do because every pharmaceutical firm is unique, but we can tell you how to do it.

The following is a guide on how to understand and capitalize on your employee-firm relationship.  First, we will begin by discussing the potential causes and signs of turnover.  Next, we will focus on key opportunities to build loyalty, then gathering feedback and finally, the forming of solutions. You might already address some of these issues, or you might have attempted to address these issues but did so without achieving results.  Regardless,  it is important to keep in mind that every time an employee leaves, estimated costs to your company can range from 50% – 300% of their annual salary to replace them.

Build the Perfect Exit Interview, Build a Better Workplace

Done right, an intelligent exit interview strategy can offer you a wealth of information on your staffing needs.

I know…you don’t do exit interviews.  Well, despite the escalating cost of employee turnover, most companies don’t. The common reasons are:

  1. I already know why people leave
  2. People don’t give honest answers
  3. We don’t have the time
  4. I am not sure what to ask, or
  5. Who needs them? The people are gone anyway.

Exit Interview Return on Investment

“By constantly evaluating and renewing the workplace, you’ll decrease hiring and training costs and reduce employee turnover.” –  Chason Hecht, President, Retensa

None of the aforementioned reasons equate to the tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, a company can save on employee turnover, absenteeism, and productivity from performing exit interviews. Losing 1 employee can cost a company a minimum of 50% up to 300% of an employee’s annual salary.  So exit interviews, which cost $30 to $150 each, provide one of the highest sources of Return on Investment (ROI) you can get from an employee program.

Done right, you can gather new solutions to recruitment, management, orientation, as well as how to best meet the needs of the person filling their position.  By constantly evaluating and renewing the workplace you’ll decrease hiring and training costs, and reduce employee turnover.

What Makes a Good Exit Interview Strategy?

Exit interviews are a formal set of questions asked of departing employees that serve as a barometer for the current work environment.  The best information will be from soon-to-depart employees who feel comfortable expressing how they feel, and trust those they are speaking with to listen confidentially. Whoever administers the exit interview, they should query five key areas:

  1. Reasons they joined/liked working there (e.g. questions about salary, work environment, administration, what did they like most about their job, etc.).
  2. Reasons they are leaving (same as above, plus management relationship and what they liked least).
  3. Suggestions for future changes (e.g. questions about training a replacement, challenges, improving communication, different reward system, etc.).
  4. Verifying the understanding between employer and employee (e.g. concerning insurance, materials/supplies, confidentiality agreements, keys, etc.).
  5. Open Ended Opportunity.  Let employees be expressive, it provides closure.  People don’t quit a firm to play in the NFL.  Ex-employees stay in the industry after leaving to be a potential client, vendor, partner, or competitor.  In every case, it’s a good investment to part on good terms.  You can always use a strategic partner and you don’t want to add emotional fuel to your competition.

Upon receiving the information, the provider should organize it into a format you can easily use to make real-world changes.  Once several departures have provided similar responses, it is time to make a change. Implementing the change is where a company reaps the benefits of exit interviews.  It shows your existing employees the company values their opinions and works to provide solutions.  Exit interviews provide suggestions and propel change, and that gives the business the feedback needed to move forward.

Exit Interview Outsourcing

Finally, a word about outsourcing…During in-person interviews, especially with the boss, employees will dodge an honest response to keep a good reference. As a result, a company will not receive helpful insights on how to improve, and may be falsely led to believe their company has no areas to improve upon.  For this reason anonymity in exit interviews is crucial.  Outsourcing exit interviews ensures honesty and saves money. A good third party can get your employee to open up, which is much harder to achieve if conducted within the business.

For more information about how Retensa can assist your organization to build the perfect exit interview and boost employee retention, email

Talent Raids Are On: Preserve Your Human Capital

Talent raiders employ overt and underhanded techniques to steal your talent; learn the best strategies for protecting human capital.

Rather than simply focusing on why an employee leaves, exit interviews should seek to elicit how (i.e., how the employee was contacted, persuaded, and by whom, etc.) the employee came to the point of exit.” – Timothy M. Gardner, Human Resource Management, Vol. 41 No. 2, 225-237.

Talent Protection Strategies

How does a company prevent the loss of talented employees to its competitors? How does a company sustain and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace? After querying executives from several corporations for the study, “In the trenches at the talent wars: Competitive interaction for scarce human resources,” Timothy M. Gardner highlights tactics that corporations use to lure highly qualified people to their firms.

Tactics include emails or phone calls offering a salary increase, more benefits, better training, more vacation days, and other perks. Conversations often start with “What don’t you like about working at X Company?” or “What would it take to get you to leave?” How an organization responds to overtures from competitors to their valued employees depends on several factors. Those factors include their investments in employee development, individual ROI, cost per hire, and their awareness of tactics used by the raiders. Not surprisingly, employees with skill mobility are the most vulnerable to being “poached.”

Gardner makes another observation that may seem obvious, but has important consequences: by basing HR strategies on the labor market of all your company’s locations rather than that of the headquarters, HR personnel will be better able to respond to local recruiting challenges. Losing employees cost not only investments in employees (such as training), but also the potential they had to contribute to the organization.

What responses can stop these actions?

Protecting Human Capital from Talent Raiders

Studying your organization’s employee voluntary turnover patterns will give you a base from which to create recruiting and retention plans. Companies who keep track of patterns in Exit Interviews and who follow up with those people are most prepared to devise solutions to prevent talented employees from being lured away in the future. Tactics that are employed against raiding firms include directly communicating with that firm and negotiating, legal action, counter-raiding, and encouraging others to sever business relationships with that firm.

These practices are necessary because employees have inside information that can aid their new employers’ talent raids. Offering incentives makes it difficult for employees to leave (especially those with transferable skills). Strategies, implemented on a case-by-case basis, include providing developmental opportunities, life/work balance options, or matching salary offers of the raiding firm.

Implementing these supervisory tactics is less costly than recruiting, training, and integrating new employees into your company. For assistance with putting these techniques into practice, email

Supervisory Approaches Impact Voluntary Turnover

Leadership styles impact employees’ attitudes toward your company and the level of voluntary turnover that occurs.

“For the most part unhappy employees do not leave companies- they leave bosses. [T]he supervisor is an icon for the company as a whole…” – Stan Beecham & Michael Grant, Supervision (June 2003, Vol. 64)

Supervisors may not realize that they wield powerful influences on their employees’ attitudes toward your company. A lack of dialogue in this relationship can influence competent employees to leave. With reduced resources and tighter budgets, supervisors who communicate effectively and honestly with direct reports establish more productive workplaces and reduce the cost of turnover. If there is an absence of attentiveness to the concerns of employees, poor performance may result. Consequently, a dangerous spiral follows. Failing to identify the reasons for poor performances, supervisors are reinforcing behaviors that result in undesirable outcomes.

Feedback of individual performance, based on objective criteria, should be given regularly. If feedback is given haphazardly talented employees may feel demoralized and poor performers may assume that their work is acceptable.

Management Behavior of a High Performing Company

Progressive employers are beginning to hold managers accountable for retaining talented employees. In doing so, managers will focus on relationships as essential for their success as well as for the success of the company. Careful assessment of direct reports’ work-related behaviors and addressing their performance alleviates tension and facilitates desired outcomes. Both formal and informal performance assessments are being used to maintain productive relationships. Regular discussions of employees’ ideas about the organization can give supervisors insight into the departure drivers of each direct report. This dynamic gives supervisors an opportunity to explore their employees’ career goals and initiatives. Proactive exchanges with employees create the ideal opportunities to demonstrate how the employees’ goals align with that of the organization.

A trusting relationship between a supervisor and employee is vital in shaping how the employee views the organization. Consistently behaving with integrity will cue your direct reports that the same is expected of them; failing to follow-through with actions promised to your employees will devalue their relationship with you and the company. Giving employees meaningful work and the autonomy to complete assignments is a clear sign of your confidence in them. Conversely, micromanaging employees can indicate that your have little confidence in their potential and spur voluntary turnover.

Avoiding Managerial Dysfunction in your Workplace

“The workplace, like the home, can become psychologically toxic if dysfunctional people are in charge.” – Adrian Furnham, Financial Times, November 29, 2000

What supervisory behavior impacts voluntary turnover?

Yes, your company’s organizational climate and productivity are significantly impacted by supervisory behaviors. Seasoned managers are assumed to be skilled,reliable, and knowledgeable. However, many are not able to translate those valuable assets into managerial communication or employee motivation.

Often overlooked, managers may not exhibit counter-productive behaviors until they are settled into the organization or promoted into higher positions. Managers employing an autocratic leadership style are unsuccessful at building long-term commitment with their subordinates, and the organizational climate can become toxic and unproductive if they advocate an environment built on fear. However, it may not always be their fault. Some managers are never taught to address the needs of their people and cannot handle the stressors of the new position. These are the hallmarks of this management style that you can recognize:

  1. Inconsistent, unpredictable messages that lack clarity (which creates insecurity among direct reports);
  2. Lack of emotional control when encountering a stressful situation;
  3. Inflexibility when managers repeat mistakes and do not take steps to improve or learn new skills. To often, these characteristics are compounded with
  4. A lack of mentoring knowledge; or
  5. Disinterest in guiding their direct reports’ long-term career goals.

Solutions for leadership development.

Essentially, the above-described managers focus on how team performance reflects on them rather than acknowledging the effort and quality that went into the finished product. Managers who fail to see (or recognize) individual contribution will stifle productivity and creativity amongst their team. They also cost the firm talented employees. If left unaddressed, it can lead to mass exodus or anti-leaders in the ranks.

New hires (especially Gen X/Y) take cues from their direct supervisors. Management must be aware of the influence that it has over employees’ burgeoning leadership potential. Learning how to master interpersonal skills gives managers the ability to control their influence as well as motivate talented employees. Setting clear, specific, and realistic goals and rewarding open communication creates a supportive environment that produces high quality work from a loyal employee base.