The War for Talent meets the War for Customers

In the past, alumni networks seemed to be exclusive to educational institutions and professional services firms. But times have changed. Today we see several large-scale trends in the corporate world that call for professionally set-up of alumni networks: globalization, the “war for talent”, changing approaches to work and employment relationships and the ubiquitous adoption of enabling technologies – they all have encouraged many companies across all sectors to proceed with major initiatives to harvest their intangible assets.

Corporate alumni programs are still a relatively new concept in terms of organizational strategies and only few companies have mastered to transform their human capital over alumni programs into significant ROI.

WHY an alumni program?

An engaged and active alumni community platform can help your company to increase business development opportunities, strengthen company and employer branding and reduce recruitment expenses.

  1. Drive New Business
  2. Optimize Recruiting Costs
  3. Attract Talent
  4. Improve diversity recruiting efforts
  5. Accelerate employee outplacement
  6. Alumni Networks and Business Processes and Systems

1) Drive New Business

When employees leave the company, they not only take their institutional knowledge with them, but also – maybe even more important – their strong professional relationships. If you miss out to maintain a good relationship with your former employees, you risk to lose a fantastic playground for business development, lead generation, referrals, partnerships and, potentially a lot of revenue.

2) Optimize Recruiting Costs

Rehiring former employees typically costs half as much as hiring new candidates. Rehires also ramp up twice as fast, require less training and stay twice as long. One company noted that it only needed to make five rehires within a year in order for its alumni network to pay for itself.

3) Attract Talent

The best in class look out for more than just a job. They want to be part of something great, something big, part of a “family” that creates value to mankind. A well run alumni program shows this value, because you prove that you value your people not only throughout the employment life cycle but beyond that. If you want the best, be the best place to work for. The best companies are attractive to top talent, because they distinguish their organization as a progressive employer that values its people throughout the employment life cycle and beyond.

4) Improve diverse recruiting

To really optimize your diverse approach, leverage your social networks. Referring to the latest research the average path length between users is 6.6 (Leskovec & Horvitz, 2008). That means that everybody knows everybody over 7 corners. But, that’s just the average. Technically it can take up to 29 corners. Smart companies optimize their alumni program for social media connections. There is amazing technology out there, so don’t miss out on that one!

5) Accelerate employee outplacement

When you have to reduce your headcount, do it smart and make the process as painless and supporting as possible. A good Alumni program integrates this step as well. Alone by giving your former employees access to your alumni network you will support and accelerate the outplacement process. This will benefit your former employee but also your company in many ways (reputation, new positive relationships. Not to forget, a quick and smooth transfer to a new job will save you related expenses (e.g. COBRA expenses in the U.S.)

6) Alumni Networks and Business Processes and Systems

New technology allows formerly disparate systems to be integrated, making information easier to share.

For example, a corporate alumni network is an excellent source of potential clients, to be mined through a CRM or sales force-automation tool. Similarly, by integrating an alumni-network platform with an applicant-tracking system, recruiters can mine the alumni population for potential candidates.

Building a robust, private and secure community of former employees enables companies to build and maintain relationships that can lead to new customers, future hires and life-long brand ambassadors.

Tom’s Tip

What really makes an alumni network work, is its day-to-day management, a task you can easily outsource.

Facilitating a corporate alumni network calls for skills in distant relationship building, an understanding of the psychology of communication and the emotional needs of former staff and an ability to offer online ‘counsel’ where appropriate, an ability to mentor those who are embarking on more senior roles, and to support those who might be launching their own businesses.

I strongly believe Alumni programs are a crucial investment that companies can no longer neglect if they want to stay ahead in the war for talent and in the war for customers.