When a superstar leaves your company

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One reason I encourage my Razorfish colleagues to embrace social media is that I believe employees are our best brand ambassadors. Employees who have an active conversation in the markeplace via blogging, Twitter, etc., make the Razorfish brand more authentic while they build their own personal brands at the same time. Recently I was asked whether I still feel that way since thought leader and social media lead Shiv Singh left Razorfish to pursue a career at PepsiCo. To wit: should Razorfish encourage employees to create strong brands for themselves when we know they can take their brands with them if they leave the company? My answer is an emphatic “yes.” Here’s why:

  • Employees are not indentured servants. The days when employees sustained lifetime employment at one company ended a long time ago. Rather than fear the inevitability of losing talent at some point, employers should embrace the reality of the employee as free agent. Employers should maximize the  value of an employee’s brand while the opportunity exists. With an active social voice, a strong thought leaders can generate business leads and goodwill for your company brand. If you fail to empower a thought leader, you’re just going to leave brand-building opportunities on the table.
  • We live in an era when employees can build their personal brands easily — with or without the help of the employer. Employers should get with the program by empowering employees with useful guidelines such as how to Tweet effectively or guidelines for blogging. I would argue that the employer has a responsibility to help the employee use social media the right way and avoid mistakes that can hurt the employee and the company brand.
  • Encouraging your employees to have active social voices builds goodwill and trust. It comes down to doing the right thing and exercising some common sense at the same time: employees who feel like their employer wants to collaborate with them (instead of hamper their social voices) are going to become even stronger ambassadors. And remember, today’s employee could be your client tomorrow and most certainly will talk about you to potential hires. If and when your employee seeks a career elsewhere, he or she will pay that goodwill back to you.

Rather than fret over losing social media superstars, employers are better off building a network of them. In the case of Razorfish, we are fortunate in that we have strong talent uniformly, in my opinion. As Shiv pointed out in his own blog, Andrea Harrison has assumed Shiv’s role as Razorfish social media lead and is off to a great start, having discussed social CRM and Facebook privacy recently at OMMA Social.

On a personal note, I wish nothing but the best for my good friend and colleague Shiv, and I’m incredibly excited about collaborating with Andrea.

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17 Responses to When a superstar leaves your company

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Superhype » Blog Archive » When a superstar leaves your company -- Topsy.com

  2. Kaiwen Lin says:

    I totally agree. No one expects to work at a single company for life. With that understanding, we can have a proactive approach both for the time when a person is completely engaged at one company and the time when we inevitably move to the next stage of our career.

  3. Drew Hawkins says:

    There are many companies that still ban social media within the office. Over time, social media tools will become more than just personal branding tools but communication tools for clients and/or leads. Companies that resist these impending changes will run the risk of being left behind.

    PS: Ran across this article the other day discussing this very thing…a good read from an HR blog http://www.fistfuloftalent.com/2010/06/social-media-the-ultimate-loss-of-control.html

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  5. I just have to say – Brilliant analysis David. This is everything a vanguard company can be in terms of its employee stakeholders. quite exciting to read – I\’ve sent it to a few friends. Onward!

  6. Thanks David! I\’m excited for my new role as well and look forward to watching Shiv do amazing things at PepsiCo.

  7. Shiv Singh says:

    Thanks, David for the kind words. Something that\’s often forgotten is that CEOs and CMOs are already very strong public voices for their brands. Encouraging more people to be public voices as Best Buy does so well simply cannot hurt but strengthen the brand. In my opinion, every organization needs many more social voices and its something I really push in my book.

  8. Carona Mohapatra says:

    I have to agree with Drew here. Encouraging employees for social adoption remains a challenge for organizations and the situation is much worse in cas large organizations as for every responsible Social Media ambassodor, there will be many immature ones. Currently there are very few organizations who are willing to invest in training and adoption of Social Media for their employees. Till these issues remain, social media tools will remain more of personal branding tools than official/business networking tools even at the risk of being left behind.

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  10. David Deal says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments and Drew for the HBR post. Drew and Carona, you are right: it\’s one thing for companies to accept the reality of employee blogging, quite another to empower employees to embrace social. There remains a good deal of fear among companies in that regard. But there are positive signs that things are changing. At the Forrester Consumer Forum June 29-30, Allstate discussed how the company has created a voluntary employee ambassador program. Employees who participate receive special attention and coaching on being a brand ambassador, including an advance peek at the company\’s social media guidelines and an ability to provide input before the guidelines are rolled out across the company. Here is a data base of many companies\’ social guidelines, FYI http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php

  11. David Deal says:

    Right on, Kaiwen! Why not accept the fact that employees do leave at some point — in fact, a strong alumni network can be good for a company

  12. David Deal says:

    Tom, thank you for the supportive words — they mean a lot

  13. David Deal says:

    Shiv and Andrea, it\’s great to work with you both! Shiv, I agree with you. One social channel, Twitter, remains a frontier for the C-suite, though. (Barry Judge of Best Buy is an exception.) This article from Forbes feels relevant, and I hope the situation improves: http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/13/social-media-twitter-cmo-network-marketing-executives-dont-tweet.html

  14. Pingback: When your employee brand ambassadors leave | HRM Today

  15. Chris Young says:

    Great take on this interesting topic David!

    I have included your post in my Rainmaker top five blog picks of the week (found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2010/07/the-rain.html) to clue my readers in on this great post.

    Be well!

  16. Pingback: LPT » Blog Archive » New Fodder for the Personal Branding Debate

  17. Pingback: Social Media Skills: Protect, Improve Business Reputation? | Future Changes

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