Workplace Culture

Two Key Twitter HR Executives Leave the Nest

By Andie Burjek

Feb. 14, 2017

Hand holding twitter birds
The 140-characters-or-less social media platform recently lost two major characters in early February, Jeffrey Siminoff and Renee Atwood.

The tech industry has famously high turnover, despite the trendy perks and “great places to work” awards. While this is true of twenty-somethings just starting out their careers, it’s often the reality of higher positions as well.

Any time a top executive leaves it can be harmful, according to Andee Harris, chief engagement officer at HR tech firm HighGround. Typically when an organization loses senior leaders, it may see a domino effect throughout the company. She cited Twitter as an example of a company that needs to rethink its brand and its retention strategy in order to stay competitive after an executive exodus.

The 140-characters-or-less social media platform recently lost two major characters in early February. Jeffrey Siminoff, vice president of diversity and inclusion is leaving the company at the end of the month, according to TechCrunch, and chief human resources officer Renee Atwood has already left. Both cited personal reasons.

In 2016 Twitter lost several other executives as well, including chief technology officer Adam Messinger, vice president of product Josh McFarland and chief operating officer Adam Bain.

“It’s going to be an interesting time for Twitter from a culture standpoint,” she said. “That’s something they need to think about, making sure they get feedback from the existing employees and making sure that that they’re actively doing things to prevent [employees they want to keep] from leaving.”

Transparency is an important way to retain employees, Harris said, which may help the company with diversity issues. Twitter was criticized for hiring Siminoff, who is white, as head of diversity in 2015. The company should be transparent to employees in terms of how they plan to fill the recent executive vacancies, she suggested. “They have to think of the right people to replace [Siminoff and Atwood].”

headshot of HighGround executive Andee Harris
Andee Harris, chief engagement officer at HR tech firm HighGround

Twitter’s 2016 diversity report showed that it was making strides toward a more diverse workforce, and the company should communicate to employees how it plans to address diversity and inclusion, Harris said.

As Twitter tries to stay relevant in the hypercompetitive tech industry, it’ll also have to think about its brand, she added.

“Like all organizations, they need to focus on citizenship,” she said. “[It’s] becoming a bigger topic now. We’re demanding that the companies we work for have some sort of social responsibility.”

Part of apparel maker Patagonia Inc.’s brand is caring for the environment. The company lets employees take time off to protest issues involving the environment and reimburses protesting costs. Whether Twitter has a strong point of view on a socially relevant issue is less clear, said Harris. Especially in a competitive industry it’s easier for people to choose to work for a company when they believe in what the company is doing and see the social impact.

Strengthening the identity of the company and being straightforward with employees could help maintain company culture and retain employees. That being said, losing talent is part of the competitive nature of the tech industry. In general in the industry, people are being poached, and some may want to move on to the next best thing, some new trendy company. Atwood moved from Uber to Twitter in August 2016, and Siminoff moved from Apple to Twitter in 2015. Neither have announced their post-Twitter plans.

In this environment, is it realistic to think these executives might stay longer, Harris asked. Although losing talent is in some way inevitable, maintaining culture and doing what it can to retain key employees after a big departure is important for a company.

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editorComment below, or email at Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Andie Burjek is an associate editor at

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