What if there was a strategy for staying in touch with former employees and getting more out of our associations with them? Even if employees resign from their organisations, a lifetime relationship will remain a win-win for both former employees and their organisations. Therefore, it is best to continue this synergy even after employees have completed their employment.
Typically, neither the organisations nor the employees are leveraging benefits from a solid corporate alumni relationship to its full potential. When companies contribute to their alumni networks, the value to both parties can significantly increase. Few organisations such as Mckinsey, PwC, Deloitte, Microsoft, Chevron, HSBC, Accenture, and so on have a sound strategy for keeping in touch with former employees.
The alumni of the organisations are amongst the best channels of external communication and branding, resulting in long-term business success. On the other hand, few alumni realise how beneficial former employers can be to their careers.
In an era where employees switch jobs frequently, lifetime employment is no longer the norm. However, establishing a corporate alumni network requires relatively little investment, and is the next logical step to maintaining a relationship of mutual investment, mutual benefit, and mutual trust.
Cost saving: Having a structured alumni programme helps the organisations in talent acquisition. After all, the best talent does not come cheap. This is where referrals come into play. Of course, rehiring of former employees is amongst the best options.
Not only do they offer an outsider perspective on process improvements based on their newly-gained skills, but they are already familiar with the organisation’s culture. They require very little or no training.
Source of knowledge: About 68 per cent of organisations report that up to five per cent of new recruits are alumni rehires. They are not just easy to onboard, but act as the best source of competitive market intelligence, industry best practices, and a holistic view of the organisation, which may be lacking in the present employees.
External perspective: Boomerang employees can help the organisations receive an external perspective. This will ultimately help in value generation as organisations can leverage the knowledge, research and expertise of their alumni.
Brand advocacy: Referrals by alumni can help in better brand advocacy and fill the vacant roles quicker. Organisations can leverage their alumni network to get in touch with candidates who may be the right fit for the position. Again, an alumni network easily saves cost in hiring value.
How to establish and sustain an alumni network?
Step 1: To lay a strong foundation for an alumni network programme, one needs to first understand the as-is position in one’s organisation. This should be followed up by identifying the best practices in the industry, especially in the competitor organisations and top educational institutions.
Step 2: The data collected should be used to understand what works best for the organisation, based on the industry’s culture, needs and nature. Here, the primary target audience are the corporate alumni. Building various personas of alumni based on their demographics can be an added value, as it can lead to precise interventions, which can add more value to the specific segment of the alumni persona (based on gender, location, educational background, seniority, interests, and so on).
Step 3: Consequently, organisations must also set up an alumni team and assign roles and responsibilities to each member. This should be followed by designing a roadmap for implementing the alumni network strategy. This strategy can be divided into quick wins, short-term and long-term actions, based on the implementation timeline, helping the alumni team identify how to frame the activities for the annual calendar.
Step 4: The hygiene factor for any organisation to establish an alumni network is an alumni portal, where former employees are invited to create a profile, post their employment separation. They must be encouraged to update their profiles from time to time. This will ensure regular updation of the database. It will help the organisations engage with their new alumni by sharing company news and information and sharing newsletters or alumni stories, both via the portal as well as by sending mailers to the former employees.
Step 5: Organisations can further engage with their alumni via keep-in-touch programmes, virtual birthday wishes, virtual events or webinars, sending the invitation for networking opportunities, Ideathon, and CSR events. Most organisations do not offer an alumni referral programme, so this can be an opportunity for recruitment that can yield a good result to get the best talent quicker.
Step 6: Additionally, organisations can offer an opportunity for preplacement interviews for employees who leave the organisation for higher education. This policy can benefit both former employees and the organisations. Organisations can gain access to higher-skilled talent, and the former employees will get a sense of job security.
Step 7: Organisations must also actively form and engage with the corporate alumni groups on social media such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Most importantly, it is essential to brand the existing initiatives so that organisations can enhance their employer brand and attract more alumni into the network.
To summarise, the greater the value of a corporate alumni network to a company’s brand, the easier it is to leverage that network for hiring, network intelligence and customer referrals.
They are the best brand ambassadors for promoting the organisation and help build better credibility, which cannot be replicated via advertising channels, social media, or other campaigns.
Alumni Networks form the lesser tapped channels for organisations to explore and create mutually beneficial avenues.
The author, Sneha Kamath is the University Talent Partner at Adobe.