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Social Capital and the positive capital of employment

December 28, 2008

My good friend and colleague William Azaroff has a very thoughtful post about the need for all of us to be creating social capital through our affiliations with others on the web and that this can prove a benefit with these different economic times upon us. I wanted to bring another view into focus.

I have long felt that as an employer (one that hires and fires) one of the most important aspects of working with people is to create an environment of trust and respect. Over the years there have been a number of people that have worked for the credit unions I have worked for that got their start with us and then moved on for various reasons. It has always been difficult to see these people leave as has been the case recently. You train and challenge them to be better employees and people and you watch them grow. Life does not remain stagnant and so things change and people move on.

It is important that as an employer you keep the relationships open to the point of having that person who wants to move on talk to you about it. When they feel confident enough to approach you to say that they are going to be looking for another job then you can prepare for their eventual departure. The process becomes healthy and proves to be a benefit to both parties. One of our employees told me they were looking for something else. That was a few months ago and they recently found a new job. They had the ability to say at any interview that they could call us, the current employer, for a reference. Now how powerful is that? They had the ability to take the time off for interviews without saying it was a doctors appointment. It was a transparent approach for them in moving their career path as they saw fit. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it puts a proper closure to the situation of leaving an old job and getting a new one.

Employers should be creating social capital that can be used by current employees as they need it. That should be the norm.

Then you have the other side when you have to let someone go. To terminate anyone is one of the most painful experiences you can imagine. To do it abruptly and quickly makes it worse. When you are able create a transitional plan that incorporates social values that both parties hold as important, that takes some of the pain out of the situation. The impact of loosing people affects the bottom line of course but the loss of anyone diminishes the social capital of any business in ways that one never realizes until that person has gone. You really can’t measure this loss. In the difficult times we will face in the future one hopes that the worst situation possible, loss of one’s job, can be handled with care, compassion and respect. Everyone deserves that.

This is the element that scares me the most for the future. Experience has taught me most people can live under difficult economic circumstances. It becomes tragic when people loose their livelihood. Much of what defines us is what we do and when we loose that important definition our lives become that much blacker. If social capital is one way of alleviating that despair it will make a true difference in how we move forward.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2008 4:01 pm

    I have been Employment and Training Counselor, for nearly 20 years, in my life outside the credit union world. I spend each day being with people who have never worked, have lost their jobs and/or are looking for a job that’s more satisfying (or better paying). One of the most valuable resources job seekers have is what you and William have identified as social capital. Amazingly, this is true in nearly every type of environment. Developing and fostering social capital can be beneficial in large cities or small communities, in nationwide or local employment, in any kind of professional setting or entry level job. William spoke about the advantages of sites like LinkedIn. You talked about employers and employees helping each other by sharing feelings and goals related to one’s career. One of the most difficult aspects of a job search is recognizing that it’s more than looking on sites like Monster or Career Builder. Personal and/or virtual contacts can make the difference in the cruel economic environment we’re facing. Thanks to you and William for reminding me that this one of the most beneficial and encouraging messages I can share.

  2. December 28, 2008 6:39 pm

    Thanks for this, Gene. In the end, if you have trust and authenticity as an employer or an employee, you are in much better shape to build and take advantage of your social capital.

    When both sides have it to create the kind of transparency and opennesss you talk about, well, that doesn’t come along very often, and it is a powerful thing.

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