The global recession has prompted layoffs far and wide, and an ever-growing number of the employees being shown the door aren’t the bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of skills and contributions; rather, very often they are competent, capable workers who are so good that their ailing companies can’t afford them.
Perhaps this sad reality has contributed to the trend of companies creating Web sites specifically for “alumni”—those former employees with whom managers want to stay in touch and maintain relationships despite handing them the pink slip. As reported recently in BusinessWeek, Dow Chemical and JPMorgan Chase are just two of many companies that maintain such sites, which (in my opinion) can be likened to a Facebook for “Survivor” cast-offs—those whose time on the proverbial island was cut short because of physical weakness, minimal contributions to the community’s food supply, or a poor performance on the obstacle course. It’s not a club I would want to be a member of, because it would mean I was out of the running for the big payday.
Taking a less cynical view, though, I can also see the advantages of such a social network, for both managers and former employees. For the former group, it’s a way of conveying their continued interest in the progress and accomplishments of the former staffers, and of not burning the bridges they may want to cross when the economy turns around. It’s also a way of cultivating brand ambassadors. For the latter population, especially in today’s tough climate, it’s a way of networking and keeping doors open for future opportunities.
But what about the risks, which are particularly potent for the hosts of alumni networks? People who leave companies often don’t have the nicest things to say about them, which could turn the social network into an open forum for venting and trash-talking.
As a manager, would you ever consider hosting a social network for laid-off employees? Or, as an employee, would you ever consider joining one to maintain professional relationships?
By Courtney Barnes