For organizations looking to engage their Alumni community and researching their Alumni software options, we put the requirements side by side with the topics you should be thinking about so you can decide the best solution for your needs.
How to choose the right Alumni Platform?
- Potential Alumni Population Size: How large is your potential Alumni Community. There are many ways to measure the potential size of the community, a good rule of thumb is the eligible size (the number of people likely to join) is 1:1 to your existing company size. However, this does not apply to consulting, retail or other similar industries where there is high employee turnover and the ratio can be up to 5:1 or where a major acquisition or merger has occurred consolidating two companies and potentially creating a larger Alumni population.
- Size of company: How large, global or distributed is your company is important to assess what you need in a software provider. Your requirements for an Alumni platform need to take into account if you need to support multiple languages or time zones, or if different countries use differing recruiting software you might need to integrate into. Or are you a company with a single main office that includes the vast population of your Alumni community.
- Company Objectives: Every company has a different set of objectives or needs that trigger the start of engaging with your Alumni Community. These objectives will likely change as your community becomes more engaged or as your business changes, but starting with some defined expectations of what your organization is looking to achieve helps identify the functionality you might require. If recruiting is important then native integrations to your ATS is critical, if sales is a driver then how does the software interact with your CRM. Maybe these objectives are going to be defined as you start to launch the community in which case, it’s important the vendor has a strategy team that will assist you in identifying the objectives and setting a series of goals.
- Budget: Many Alumni Programs start with a shoe-string budget, and only as they become successful, membership count increases and the program starts impacting the business does more budget become available. Are you expecting to have a big launch announcement or launch this very slowly? Your budget defines whether you are going to use some of the free tools that exist or if you will be investing in a platform do you need a way to start with a pilot or start small and grow based on the success of the network.
- Engagement: Independent of your business objectives, or the power of your brand name, your Alumni will not just turn up and keep on visiting. Alumni need to be delivered a suite of relevant and constantly changing benefits to maintain their attention and attract them to your site. You cannot attract passive recruits to view your job opportunities if you cannot get them to the site first. Understanding the values your Alumni will be seeking both via your company (perhaps access to information, thought leadership, people or company events) but also wider benefits such as how Alumni can better do business with each other, or how the network will enable them to find other like-minded colleagues. The key to engagement is delivering the Alumni value so it is critical to be thinking – “As an Alumni why should I visit”. Alumni communities no longer are engaged by just a stream of news they want authentic conversations.
- Available Resources: Who will run this network, how many people will it take, do we need dedicated resources, should it live in HR or Marketing? All questions important to consider as you consider launching an Alumni Network. For many organizations, similar to budget, there is no dedicated headcount who can run the network, it often can take up to a year after launch and the success of the network to be proven before organizations are willing to hire an FTE just to focus on the Alumni community. Based on your resources and your team, it is important to consider what is required to launch and to run the network. If headcount is low, it is critical to have intelligent automation and logic within the software to ensure repetitive tasks can be automated.
The Difference Is In The 20%
Alumni software for 80% of the solution includes a number of similar features and standard functionalities such as news, events, jobs, and emails; however an Alumni Platform is only a part of the solution, the remaining 20% is the additional functionality that can drive engagement, enable the platform to run with low headcount and be of value to the end user and the organization.
The platform must be able to recognize the user, identify the last time they visited and what they did and then deliver a unique experience ensuring that the Alumni experience is always fresh and always contextually engaging.
In addition to the technology, it is important to recognize that strategy and continuous improvement is a critical piece of the 20%. This includes the on-site kick-off session to understand a companies objectives and identify how they can be executed within the tool, how they can be measured and post-launch reporting to identify how the network is doing compared to the rest of the industry, areas of improvement and potential growth strategies.
LinkedIn vs Alumni Software
To best manage and engage an alumni community, companies need both alumni software and a presence on social networks. Their co-existence is symbiotic and gives a competitive edge. Many customers do not choose between a LinkedIn group and an Alumni Platform recognizing both serve different but key values.
For smaller organizations creating an official LinkedIn group or being part of an existing an active LinkedIn group of Alumni ensure the company voice is heard on a platform used by millions of people.
If you aspire to have a successful and thriving 1-2-1 relationship with your alumni and retirees; If there are specific insights you want to share as opposed to having a ‘one size fits all’ message; If there is personalized learning content to help develop the careers of former employees; If there are colleagues you think your alumni should know … then you need to own your alumni data. And you need an intelligent platform such as EnterpriseAlumni through which to do this.