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Is It Time to Add an Alumni Survey to Your Employee Listening Plan?

Managing the employee experience is the ultimate people leadership challenge. To expose deeper insights into the employee experience and help inform smarter business decisions, we’ve seen a growing trend among large enterprises to complement the traditional, annual employee survey with more frequent employee pulse and lifecycle surveys, especially during the moments that matter. We’re also seeing companies extend the horizon of lifecycle surveys beyond exit interviews to include alumni surveys. 

Perceptyx panel research of more than 1,000 working Americans indicates alumni surveys are a competitive advantage to attracting, selecting, engaging, and retaining talent. On average, employees said they would consider returning to 72% of the employers they had over the past five years given the right opportunity, and half said they have regretted leaving a former employer. Indeed, the grass isn’t always greener, and with the Great Resignation still booming, surveying alumni and gathering new information on employee preferences could prove invaluable to organizations looking for new ways to keep current employees on board

Despite the popular adage that “employees join cultures, but leave managers,” more than half of employees we surveyed left their last employer for career advancement opportunities, compensation, company culture, and flexibility; less than 10% told us they left their last employer because of their manager.

Interestingly, compensation is reported to be a bigger motivator for those employees who are not highly engaged at their current employer. In contrast, for employees who are highly engaged at their current employer, benefits and flexibility are stronger motivators than compensation. These highly engaged employees are also more likely to identify flexibility, the work itself, and their colleagues as motivating factors to return to a previous employer.

‘Boomerang’ Employees: An Untapped Source of Talent to Combat the Great Resignation

Most organizations strive to hire and develop top talent. The caveat is that top talent will always have opportunities knocking on their door, and therefore, they are more likely to get poached. While your alumni may be temporarily gone from the organization, including them in your continuous listening strategy sends a powerful message that: 1) they are not forgotten, 2) you still value their feedback, and 3) you are open to them coming back, or having “boomerang” alumni, when the opportunity is right for the individual and the organization. 

This also affords an opportunity to create alumni networks and leverage this group to improve brand and culture advocacy, gather feedback on new products, and refer new customers as well as potential candidates. Data gathered from alumni can also be leveraged to attract new talent. As an example, recruiting materials could highlight key details about the success of past employees: “Start your career at ACME and, ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ Our 100K+ alumni are working in virtually every business sector in over 30 countries, more than 30% have risen to senior leadership positions, and 1 in 300 have launched their own entrepreneurial venture.”

Tips For Building Your First Alumni Survey

When designing your alumni lifecycle survey, make sure it provides actionable insights about alumni career journeys: where they are working; the new knowledge, skills, and experiences they have gathered; and insights into what they’re looking for in their next career move. All taken together, this helps match talent to opportunities faster than ever before. 

Here are three tips to test the waters and narrow the scope of respondents to your first alumni survey:

  1. Focus on the sweet spot of terminations: Alumni who have voluntarily left the organization between one and three years ago.
  2. Focus on regrettable losses: Alumni who were top performers and/or high potentials who you would rehire.
  3. Focus on difficult-to-source roles: Alumni who were in mission-critical roles for the business prior to their departure, or alumni who have specialized skills.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to source top talent, don’t allow your alumni pool to become an untapped talent resource. Many former employees are open to boomerang opportunities and have the added benefit of already knowing, firsthand, the organizational culture and values.

Perceptyx has the knowledge, expertise, and platform to help you access the untapped information that your alumni can provide. Reach out to learn more about adding alumni lifecycle surveys to your employee listening program.

*A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.com.

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