A corporate alumni network can foster a mutually beneficial relationship between employees and employers. For employees, both current and former, an alumni network can act as a morale booster. It can also make them feel a part of a close-knit community, which in turn leads to benefits such as brand advocacy for the employer. Corporate alumni networks can, especially, be hotbeds for talent acquisition. Deloitte hired 2800 ex-employees in 2017 through its corporate alumni program.
So How Do You Build a Corporate Alumni Network?
Any kind of network is about building relationships. And great relationships are built on a solid foundation. Giving your corporate alumni program a well-defined structure is the first step towards building a great network of former and current employees. Designate a single point of contact in your company for managing the program. This person will be responsible for coordinating across departments, formulating the content strategy, and how layoffs and resignations are dealt with. If you have a large organization, it might be wise to depute more than one alumni relationship manager.
You might even want to create a whole team centered around the alumni network, with a relationship manager at the top. This team could consist of a group moderator, brand manager, event manager, and talent acquisition expert.
Other than forming a team to head the project, here are some key drivers that help build a sustainable, engaged network of employees.
1. The Exit Process
Employee layoffs and resignations need to be handled in the most amicable manner possible. HR managers, and managers, in general, should be trained to handle both, voluntary, and involuntary attritions. Instead of ending things with an exit interview and a warm goodbye, people should be invited to your alumni network. The message should be clear: you might be leaving the office but you are still part of the family.
The exit process is also a good opportunity to identify people for rehire in the near future. The talent acquisition executive for the program can spend a little more time on these potential candidates, once they join the network.
2. Membership of the Network
Decide who should be a part of the alumni network. Is it only for ex-employees, or can current employees also be a part of it? There is a strong case to be made for including current employees in the mix. Ex-employees can be a great source for objective feedback on new product rollouts, and on existing strategies. The outsider’s perspective can be helpful for current employees in optimizing their projects, and bringing new ideas to the table.
A good alumni network can foster a symbiotic relationship between former and current employees.
3. Reaching Out to Unofficial Alumni Groups
Former employees can often form their own alumni networks to keep in touch. Reach out to such networks and see if they are willing to be a part of a common, official alumni group. A larger group, managed professionally, is always going to be a lucrative invite unless they have exited the company on not-so-good terms.
Fruitful engagement is crucial to run a community of active users. Interview accomplished former employees as a source of inspiration for the entire group. Even better, if you can find people with unheard stories. Run polls and surveys on upcoming product rollouts, company policies, and emerging trends. Ex-employees should feel their opinion still matters at your organization.
Regularly sharing news about the company, initiating casual discussions on interesting topics, are other content ideas for achieving high engagement rates. Reunions are an effective strategy too to engage users. Discussions at the reunion can trickle back to the online community, thus creating a neat cycle for user-generated content. Moreover, reunions can be great for identifying former employees with an updated skill set.
5. Tracking Metrics
In order to grow your network, it is important to gauge whether you are doing things right. Keep an eye on monthly active users, percentage of user-generated content against company-created content, and what ratio of former and current employees are engaging in the community. The number of people who attend your offline alumni events is also a good yardstick to measure how your corporate alumni network is doing.
More than anything, though, a direct measure of an alumni network’s success is the number of rehires and referrals. You can calculate the direct cost savings in a given period of time to calculate the ROI of running the network. Here, running a rewarding referral program is crucial.
At the end of the day, you need to convey the tangible and intangible benefits of joining the alumni network for it to grow. When users see the gains they can make for themselves, they are more likely to actively participate in discussions and surveys.