Marketing Personnel and the Layoff

Marketing people are bright, creative and energetic. Whether launching a product as a Product Manager, or promoting a product as a Product Marketing Manager, they use their skills and knowledge to provide the right product/service at the right time, at the right price to the right place.

In the past, Marketing people collected and retained “portfolios” of their work, to show others, and in the event of moving to a new job to show prospective new employers. These portfolios might contain samples of creative work, brochures, campaigns, Point-of-Sale displays, and so forth. Today, these creative works tend to be electronic and contained on computers.

How can a Marketing person construct a portfolio, especially when faced with a layoff and only having access to his/her material through a company issued computer?

Can they, should they, send copies of the material to their personal email address or copy it to a flash drive or CD? If they do, will it be detectable? What about the legal and moral issues?

Starting with technical questions:

Does deleting emails sent to personal addresses make it harder to find? Not really, especially if the company is intent on looking. There are built-in Microsoft tools as well as multiple third party tools and services available.  In addition, there could/should be logs that indicate activity, pointing to both the origination and deletion of the emails. Advanced Outlook Express Recovery is an example of one of the many such tools that can be used.

What if they were copied them to a CD or thumb drive instead? This makes it a little, but not much harder.  An examination of an employee’s computer can show what was downloaded, to what and when, fairly easily. There are a significant number of forensic tools available to IT administrators to help them discover what was downloaded, if this becomes a question.

On the non-technical side.

Today virtually all companies require a new employee to sign a series of documents as part of the hiring process. One is an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which specifies how the company issued computer and the Internet can and should be used during daily activity and in conducting company business.  Basically, the AUP says that everything on the computer belongs to the company and that they can fire you for cause if they find you are looking at porn, gambling, selling goods on eBay, watching ESPN, or anything else they prohibit.

A second document is an Intellectual Property Policy, which says that anything developed by you, while working for the company, belongs to the company.  This prohibits you from taking the formula for Coke, or anything else you developed, while working for the company.

The key is how these documents are interpreted.

If the Marketer is parting on good terms, many companies allow the employee to take copies of past presentations, brochures, white papers, etc. that are samples of the person’s work and in the public domain.  Not allowed would be the report that shows a 200% increase in sales due to the work product.

In addition, if the employee takes generic information that he/she has downloaded off the web, there is usually no problem.  If, however, the company has an agreement with Gartner/Forrester, etc. the proprietary nature of their reports is a no-no.

My observation is that it is in an employer’s best interest to allow a laid-off employee to take his/her information. It shows that the employer trusts the employee, and that by allowing him/her to have the information it potentially shortens their time between jobs. As a result, positive feelings are maintained. It also allows the new employer to make a “better” decision, as they can evaluate the prior work product as part of their hiring decision.

If the Marketer is not leaving on good terms, the employer (1) can easily find that he/she copied information, and (2) has legal standing to cause some problems, i.e., cancelling severance pay, no recommendation, etc.

If the company conducting a layoff does not have a “walk’em out the door” procedure, the Marketer might want to work with his/her manager, saying, “I have worked here for X years, and would like to take some personal and developed information on my computer; will you spend some time copying them to a thumb drive with me?”  The manager might say, “you know what our policies are, copy what you think is appropriate and let me review it.”

If the policy is to escort the laid-off people out the door, cutting off access to their computer, the Marketer might want to provide his/her manager or the HR manager with a list of documents and/or files that he would like, and ask him to forward them to him/her.

Either way, everyone knows what is happening and the company buys into what the Marketer is doing.

When talking with potential new employers, the ability to illustrate work product provides a significant advantage. In today’s electronic age, obtaining copies of this work in the event of being laid-off is difficult, but it can be done. It requires that the Marketer understand how the company interprets its policies and/or by constructing a detailed listing of documents and files beforehand.

Are you prepared?

RHM 7/29/2009

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