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

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.

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 requests@retensa.com.