Why you should stay in touch with alumni
You’re a great manager. Your people trust you. Your higher ups know they can rely on you. And you enjoy doing a good job for your company.
Yet this doesn’t guarantee your team members will stay with you indefinitely. In fact, a 2015 study showed that U.S. workers stayed an average of 2.6 years in a position, according to Steve Goldstein in his MarketWatch article “Workers still clinging to jobs longer than they did before the recession.” It follows that throughout your career, you’re bound to see many accomplished employees move on to a different position with a different company. Whether you part on good terms or feel betrayed, one thing’s certain: cutting all ties with a former employee does absolutely nothing to add value to your company.
That’s why increasingly more companies are embracing the concept of maintaining good relationships with former employees, also referred to as “alumni.” The reasoning behind this is that by making alumni your allies, you can establish a win-win relationship that offers both your company and your alumni a competitive advantage.
For your company, the benefits can be significant. First and foremost, as Lindsay Gellman points out in the Wall Street Journal article “Companies Tap Alumni for New Business and New Workers,” alumni can act as brand ambassadors. They can help find top talent, share insights about how your company works and what the culture is like, and serve as references to give these candidates an advantage over unknown job seekers in your recruitment process.
At the same time, an increasing number of alumni are returning to former employers after a couple of years. According to Janine N. Truitt in her blog post “Engaging your company alumni beyond the resignation,” these “boomerang” employees, as they’re referred to, are often a good bet because they already know your company. They’re familiar with how it works, and they can easily assimilate into the company culture.
Another benefit is the fact that many alumni refer work back to their former employer. Especially those that go to work for a client that can wind up in a position to send significant amounts of work your way.
For alumni, the benefits can be equally beneficial. While almost all companies that stay in touch with their alumni offer networking opportunities, some organizations offer many more perks. Some help former employees negotiate their new employment contracts. Others provide them with access to research and other resources. And many companies send out job alerts, as well as notifications for other opportunities ex-employees otherwise wouldn’t be aware of. Moreover, especially if an alumnus goes to work for your client, it can be advantageous for all concerned to build on the existing relationship between your company and your former employee.
Nowadays, staying in touch with your former employees is relatively easy thanks to social media. A number of large companies have formal or informal alumni groups on LinkedIn. Other companies use Facebook groups. Additionally, more and more organizations are building their own online forums or communities where alumni can interact with the company and each other. Other useful tools to stay in touch and build engagement include newsletters, webinars, seminars, and even reunions.
Clearly, when an employee leaves your company, maintaining and strengthening your relationship can add value for both parties. So if you don’t yet have a strategy to create value from your alumni relationships, now would be a good time to make one!