Have you heard a story like this? A woman works for 20 years for her employer and has a wealth of institutional knowledge – many stories to tell about how the organization evolved. She comes to work two weeks after an acquisition to learn that hers is one of about a dozen roles duplicated in the acquisition. The human resources employee hands her a severance package with thanks for her service to the company and extends her the option to go ahead and go home. The employee declines. She’d like to collect her things and say goodbye. “That won’t be necessary,” says HR. “We’ll take care of that. I’ll need to escort you out of the building now, and I’ll need you to hand over your computer and your badge.”

The company values of integrity, commitment and hard work are discarded in the process of separation. What might surprise you is that this is not a Wall Street firm we’re talking about. This is happening in a non-profit. I’ve heard this type of tale recounted in many mission-minded organizations that have completely divorced their HR practices from their mission. “It’s just business,” I’ve heard. The better organizations give a nice severance and six weeks of outplacement consulting as they let six figures walk out the door. That’s right.

 It costs the organization at least 250% of the salary of a highly trained individual, plus 6-9 months of productivity, when they escort that goldmine of knowledge out the door. That doesn’t even account for the brand cost of that separation.

“We conducted a local brand audit for a Christian ministry and found that their primary brand identification with the community is a litany of sad stories about employees who were terminated without understandable cause,” reported Jon Hirst with Generous Mind, a company that consults on thought leadership.

One of those sad stories whose name is protected here remembers a severance that came as a total surprise to her. “I’d just completed a self-review and had outstanding marks from all my business partners, but my manager told me I could not be trained to the job I was hired for, and was escorted out the building after surrendering my computer and badge.” She recalled that a few months earlier someone was escorted out the building when he was fired because he posed “a security threat” based on previous angry outbursts with managers. She wondered how she posed a security threat as she was escorted out without saying goodbye.

Organizations might spend $50,000 a month or more for public relations without taking into account the PR value of a happy, engaged employee whose value as a brand asset lasts far beyond their employment. Curious? Join 360º Life Strategies at Peak Startup Week on August 24 to learn about Maximizing Your Greatest Asset.

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