Thursday, June 10, 2010

No employee is an island

In a new book titled, Chasing Stars, author Boris Groysberg studied the performance of Wall Street analysts to determine if the success of individual “star” employees was transferable to other businesses. Groysberg a professor in the organizational behavior unit at Harvard Business School studied the careers and job changes of 1,053 top analysts at 78 investment banks between 1988 and 1996. What he found was that “Star equity analysts who switched employers paid a high price for jumping ship”, according to Groysbery, “Overall, their job performance plunged sharply and continued to suffer for at least five years after moving to a new firm.”

It appears that the analysts’ skills were not as portable as they or their new organization expected they would be. Groysberg suggests that when employees leave they lose “the capabilities of the old firm and the practiced, seamless fit between their own skills and the resources of the company. . . an analyst who left a firm where he or she achieved stardom lost access to colleagues, teammates and internal networks that can take years to develop. . .new and unfamiliar ways of doing things took the place of routines and procedures and systems that over time had become second nature.”

The message of book is quite interesting and thought provoking. It made me think of a few individuals that I have known over the years that were hired because they were “super stars” at their prior organization but who failed to achieve the same level of achievement in the new organization. I remember wondering what anyone saw in these people who came with such high recommendations but turned out to be less than outstanding.

No employee is an island, no matter how unique their tacit knowledge may be, there is also the familiarity with the culture and the network within the organization that adds to an employees value. I think Groysberg’s book helps makes the case for the importance of professional networking inside and outside an organization so that should you leave your organization you will not be losing access to all of your professional network.