Build Your Company's Talent Network With A Company Alumni Program
By Brittany Head, PhD - September 10, 2020
Ideally, the employee’s exit is not the end of their relationship with the company. As noted in the first chapter of this blog series, applicants are often also customers, and the same holds true for employees—you want to preserve the customer relationship after the employee’s departure. Like applicants, former employees are also likely to talk about their experience with the company with others.
But there is additional benefit in continuing the relationship with former employees beyond their exit—it can also pay big dividends when searching for talent, particularly in a tight labor market. Creating and maintaining a company alumni network gives your business another channel for locating new talent.
What Is The Meaning Of The Term “Company Alumni”?
Company alumni are individuals who previously worked for your organization and left voluntarily. They include former employees, interns, and contractors—anyone who has experience working with the company. They are among the most informed individuals regarding the experience inside the organization, and can serve as promoters or detractors.
Advantages Of Creating And Maintaining A Company Alumni Network
According to a recent report from the Society for Human Resource Management, the top three advantages that accrue to businesses with company alumni networks are brand advocacy, business development, and talent acquisition. The latter advantage is particularly important, especially with top talent, since high performers tend to know other top performers. Having those individuals as promoters gives your organization momentum when it comes to attracting talent.
The value of having former employees as champions cannot be overstated. Prospective employees are likely to research your company on sites like Glassdoor to gain insight into the employee experience inside the organization, but a recommendation from someone they know is much more powerful than the opinions of strangers.
How To Build & Maintain A Company Alumni Program
Setting up a company alumni program starts with a positive separation experience. Departing employees need to feel they’re treated with dignity and respect. Exit interview and survey questions provide a good opportunity to communicate respect and shared values.
After their departure, keep up with former employees’ contact information. LinkedIn and other social media sites make it easier than ever before to keep track of former employees. Keep in touch on a regular basis to keep your organization on their radar. Use contact messaging to make them aware of job opportunities and continue to reinforce value alignment, tailoring the message to align with what was learned in exit interviews or surveys. If there was a part of the experience that failed them and improvements have been made since their departure, share information on the changes that have been made.
Opportunities for contact include:
- A private online networking site for company alumni, either a dedicated site or a private Facebook page
- Regular posts to the alumni site with company news, stories, and blog posts
- Posting new or open positions to the site, offering members of the alumni group the same bonus you offer employees for recruitment referrals
You might also consider doing a short survey of company alumni. Alumni are people who know your company and once said “yes” to you, so they can provide valuable feedback about their experience with the company. Keep the survey very brief with five or fewer questions, and focus on engagement metrics like these:
- Would you recommend the company?
- Would you consider working for the company again?
- What are you looking for in your next opportunity?
Response to this type of survey is typically very low; you can increase your response rate by adding an incentive, such as entering the names of every respondent into a drawing for a big-ticket raffle prize like a cruise or a trip to Hawaii. Pairing an incentive with the request communicates the value you place on their feedback; that can be made explicit in the messaging: “Just to show you how much we value your response…”
Even with incentives, you probably will not get a statistically significant level of response, but you can collect good anecdotal data and keep your company on respondents’ radars. This type of survey may also help you to identify potential “boomerang” employees—former employees whose circumstances have changed and who may now be interested in returning to your company.
Some companies go well beyond creating online alumni communities and email messaging, offering alumni training opportunities such as resume and interview skills webinars, producing alumni newsletters, and hosting alumni-exclusive events. These types of offerings serve as incentive to remaining connected, and help maintain the company’s relationship with former employees.
Using some or all of these methods to remain connected to company alumni can pay big dividends the next time you’re searching for talent, by helping you more easily zero in on individuals who are a good fit for your company’s needs and culture. If you do not already have a company alumni network, the time to start building one is now.
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