Alumni - your biggest untapped people asset?
Picture it - it’s Friday, at 3pm, in any office across the country. People congregate around a desk or in the boardroom, gifts are presented and short speeches are made. There’s laughter all round and invitations are extended to attend the pub after work. It’s a scenario that’s repeated week in, week out, across the land, as people leave their jobs and move on to pastures new.
The question is, how many of these leavers sail off in to the sunset, never to be heard of again? Many companies fail to realise that their alumni - those people that have worked in organisations building skills, expertise, knowledge of internal processes / systems and networks (both internal and external), are an untapped asset - one, that if nurtured properly, can be of tremendous value. Academic institutions long ago realised the value of their alumni - why has the corporate world been so slow to follow?
What are the benefits that nurturing your alumni can deliver?
- Brand advocacy Alumni who have been engaged whilst working with you and who have had a positive experience when leaving your organisation can be your biggest advocates to potential customers and / or potential candidates. They know your business - they’re able to sell it well to potential customers, and know if a candidate will be right individual to succeed and prosper in your working environment.
- Talent acquisition - returners An old manager once told me that you should never return to a company that you have previously worked at. In the modern jobs market, this no longer rings true, as companies and individuals develop at such a pace that the reasons an individual left may no longer be applicable. By recruiting from your alumni pool, you’re sourcing people who already know your business, its systems and processes, and have internal networks. You’ll also be gaining an individual who has further developed their skills and experience in another organisation, can bring fresh perspective and who may be able to introduce you to new customers or suppliers from their new external network.
- Alumni - potential customer or supplier? It’s not always the case that alumni will move to “the competition” - very often, alumni will move to organisations that have the potential to purchase your goods and services. If they are not directly responsible for buying decisions, they may be able to influence them. Flipping the coin over, your alumni may move to a supplier, and be able to provide you with great deals on the goods and services that you purchase.
- Knowledge network As your alumni grow and develop, why not tap in to their expanding knowledge base? Many companies collaborate with their alumni to share ideas, helping them to innovate and stay competitive.
- Employee engagement Maintaining a strong alumni network sends a great message to current colleagues, demonstrating that your organisation has a strong emphasis on people, networks and relationships. Ironically, a strong and visible alumni programme can actually help to improve employee retention.
How do you manage an alumni network?
This very much depends on the size of your potential network. Consider the following:
- Software If you are a large company, you may want to consider one of the corporate alumni software solutions that exist - these solutions allow you to accurately track and communicate with your alumni network, with CRM and event management functionality. Many also have recruitment modules, allowing your alumni to apply for positions, or to refer individuals that they know to be suitable.
- Social Media Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - set up alumni groups on your key social channels. Communicate frequently with your alumni, updating them about developments at your company, especially your successes. Share industry research with your alumni, maybe even create blogs or podcasts aimed at them. Encourage your alumni to share your social media content - the more they do, the more it will drive new customers and / or new employees to your business.
- Events Invite your alumni to your company events - industry updates, conferences, social events, etc. The more that alumni feel engaged with the business, the more they are likely to be a brand advocate, returner, customer or supplier - it’s simple! You may even want to hold events that are specifically aimed at your alumni (reunions can often be fun!).
If you do decide to introduce an alumni programme, you must remember that you’ll not achieve results overnight - be patient! It’s also important you set objectives and goals, and measure your RoI with regards to activity - if something doesn’t work over a set period of time, don’t keep doing it! Most organisations will, however, reap the benefits of introducing a strong alumni programme.
If you would like to discuss the points above in more detail, or would like advice on setting up an Alumni Programme, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org / 01236 608383 / 07930 542102.