What is it that makes a professional fondly look back and remember the time spent with a particular organization?
The initial package sounds jaded over a period of time and the Law of Diminishing Utility eventually kicks in. The seniority for which one so adroitly negotiates at the entry stage fails to charm after some time, unless backed by further achievements, recognition and rewards, added responsibilities and advancements. Time also takes the glow and shine off the social prestige which goes with being associated with one of the better known brands in the industry.
So, what is a professional left with after having left an organization?
The Lingering Sweetness
Much after the association with an organization has come to an end, the everlasting impression one carries in one’s mind depends on two simple factors. One, professional achievements which were individually attained but facilitated and enabled by the support systems ingrained in the culture of the organization. Two, the manner in which one was treated as a human being. Often, one of the results is the number of long-lasting relationships that one makes while the association lasts.
Organizations happen to be made up of people of all sizes, shapes and temperaments. But the treatment received at the hands of key people one comes in touch with determines whether the after-taste remains sweet or sour; also, how long it lingers in the taste buds of our memory cells.
The Brand of the People
A brand represents an element of trust and reliability. The concept is not limited merely to the quality of the product or service on offer. In fact, the systems and procedures followed by an organization, their sturdiness in the face of adversity and change, the element of fairness in its dealings with diverse stakeholders – all go on to add to the allure and enigma of the brand.
Much of the aura which characterizes a brand emanates from its people. It is they who create a buzz in the employment market. The lingering sweetness of an association is often determined by the Employee Brand Value.
I have had the opportunity of working with several companies. Each one had a different culture and a unique way of handling people. Nevertheless, it was interesting to observe how employees got treated far better by companies which had a stronger brand identity.
Allow me to share with you some of my experiences which have left me with a positive feel and a sweet after-taste!
The Human Touch
The care and companionship I was fortunate to receive in all the companies I worked with was unique in more ways than one.
When the management decided to shut down an operation headed by me, a colleague of mine and I were mercilessly beaten up by a gang of misinformed workers. Prompt medical attention, legal support, counseling for the self and the family and a compulsory vacation followed automatically. A month later, the then MD, nine rungs above us in the rigid hierarchy, called us over for a friendly chat over a cup of tea and instilled in us a sense of pride and fulfillment for having stood up to the rowdy elements in the work force.
In another company, a colleague met with a serious road accident on a busy highway while reporting for work. Over the next two years, he had to undergo a series of reconstructive surgeries to regain normality. No effort was spared to ensure that he and his family got the best support available. This, despite the company facing a severe financial challenge at the time.
In yet another case, my entry was marked by a gentle induction into the operations of the company. As my role expanded and evolved over a period of time, support – technical as well as emotional – was invariably close at hand. Above all, the HR policies facilitated a healthier work-life balance to be achieved. Which is not to say that there was ever a compromise on the goals to be achieved.
A Premium on Compassion
While I was on a personal overseas trip, a much revered colleague suddenly died of a cardiac failure. A prompt mail came from a colleague of mine. I was simply devastated. When I called back to find out precisely what had occurred and how, I was given only sketchy details. Subsequently, an inquiry was instituted to find out who had made the bloomer of conveying the disturbing news to me at a personally critical time!
A woman playing a critical role on the operations side faced a dilemma on a day which was very crucial for the company. Her husband, working in a far off city, was to return home for a brief period on the same day, that too after a gap of a few months. Having delegated her tasks and arranging a smooth conduct of her area of responsibility, she requested for half a day off from work. The immediate boss was in no mood to oblige, but relented after the top boss decided to intervene on humanitarian grounds.
Separations as Brand Building Opportunities
In one instance, a popular and effective manager suddenly decided to leave the company. At a glittering farewell ceremony, he was showered with lavish praise and presented with a gold medal by the President of the company himself. Within six months, he found that he was a cultural misfit in the next company. Feelers came in through informal channel and he soon rejoined us.
In another case, a much pampered and popular junior decided to leave the company after a long stint when he was in fact being groomed to take over a key department. A red-faced bunch of seniors met to discuss what steps could be taken to prevent the person from leaving the company’s employment. When all efforts failed, the group decided not to be vindictive in nature. Instead, the exit was facilitated so as to leave the employee in a highly positive frame of mind. The result is that even today, the , channels of communication between the company and the ex-employee remain open and smooth. Whenever the employee needs support in his new assignment, the company is there to back him up.
When the time came for me to part company (due to personal reasons, of my own accord), a smooth and graceful exit was ensured. In a farewell meeting, seniors, colleagues and others from across the company paid rich compliments in a manner which would forever remain fresh in my memory. An informal association continues till this day.
Winding Up With Minimal Resistance
Since business was not doing well, management decided to wind up the operations at the unit I was associated with in the past. The unit, directly employing more than 1,000 persons, happens to be located in an area which has seen multifold increase in labor disputes of all kinds over the past decade. As of date, there is hardly any unit which does not sport a red flag on its main gate, declaring the union which is active therein.
And what happens in this case? A well thought-out separation package gets rolled out. Most of the management staff get either relocated or out-placed. A well-rehearsed PR campaign gets underway with all the key government functionaries to ensure adequate and effective communication. This outcome is this well-designed initiative is that there are no unpleasant obstructions to the winding up plans of the company. Also, no one in authority enjoys the dubious pleasure of subsequently claiming that he or she could have done something to stop the loss of employment to a plethora of people, had they only been told of it before hand. A smart winding up, no?!
The Trust Reposed in the Employee
A common feel-good factor is the exemplary support provided to a senior manager on a critical mission. Just the feeling that one was free to take a call and will get backed up by the management, come what may, does the trick. An intrapreneur gets enthused no end when he or she is working on a mission wherein the survival of a business entity depends on him or her ensuring that a particular issue gets settled favorably. The top man merely looks him in the eye and tells him to go for it – and the goal is met. The after-glow of a professional achievement of this kind surely lasts a life time!
Building up the Employee Brand Value
Organizations focus on crafting a powerful employee brand so as to attract and retain the best talent. Here are examples from the ones which have added to their brand value by focusing on separations as well. A well thought out plan for winding up can ensure that while business goals are met effectively, there is no damage caused to the brand.
When alumni recall their positive association with the organization, it is a sure sign that the memory of its brand is getting leveraged right. Making an employee feel valued even after he or she has parted company only adds to the long-term allure of the brand.
(Related Post: ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/ramping-down-a-business-the-smart-way)