Ask anyone what they have learned this last year, and the importance of relationships is likely to top the list. It is no different for businesses, where their employee relationships have really come to the forefront.
2022 was a difficult year for workers and employers alike. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it challenges that nobody could have preempted. The force of the pandemic has resulted in a major loss of jobs in the US, with the employment rate decreasing to its lowest since 1975. Companies have been forced to let go of employees to protect themselves from long-term difficulties and bankruptcy.
Before this year, many successful organizations, including 98% of the Fortune 500, had some form of alumni program, even if it wasn’t necessarily a priority within the business. Now, the importance of corporate alumni relations has been emphasized. Businesses are paying attention and asking themselves, “How can we use our program to support those who we’ve had no choice but to let go?”
The reality is they recognize that maintaining the relationships is not only the moral thing to do but can also keep the door open to business opportunities in the future.
Real-World Examples Of How Businesses Are Leveraging Their Alumni Program To Support Ex-Employees
Now, more than ever, organizations are feeling the loss of their key talent. Many have spent valuable time and resources hiring and training individuals who were pivotal for business success. At the hand of COVID, they have been forced to make retrenchments, pause hiring, and enforce mass layoffs of people who they worked so hard to get in the first place.
For those who weren’t willing to let go, developing or bringing an alumni program to the forefront became a priority. There was a realization that it’s not a fun community that stays in the basement, rather an army of advocates you can mobilize. Plus, as a program, the return on investment (ROI) is better than any other spend in the business.
Let’s look at some real-world examples of how companies are going above and beyond to maintain corporate alumni relations in the wake of COVID.
Setting up a talent directory has been the answer for many businesses as the pandemic has unfolded.
For example, Airbnb set up their Alumni Talent Directory after being forced to let go over 1,900 workers earlier this year. The directory has the profiles, descriptions, and career information of Airbnb’s former workers and is accessible to the public. Anyone can access it to look up the former employees of the company and connect with them for business opportunities.
Uber has a similar set up to help their former employees come out of the other end of the pandemic. The directory mission is “to profile our impacted employees and help companies who are hiring to easily connect with the talented and passionate people who have helped move the world.”
The benefits of these directories include:
- Accessible online information-sharing
- Open to the public, therefore, increased opportunities for employment
- Database for potential rehires
Carta CEO Henry Ward iterated the need for alumni programs when he shared his regret of not having set up one for his business. After having let go of 161 workers, he set up a Slack account to act as an alumni platform.
The purpose of his platform:
- Help workers access opportunities (a long-term solution where vacancies can be posted)
- Information sharing
- Maintain communication with alumni
Number 3 on the World’s Best Workplace list, Hilton, took caring for their workers a step further. The hospitality giant established a partnership with its leading partners like Amazon Walgreens. The initiative assisted thousands of Hilton’s workers with securing temporary employment.
The benefits of an alumni support network:
- Quicker and more tangible solution for unemployed alumni
- Personal and direct
- Leverages relationships with partner companies
- Expands company reach into new organizations
On The Flip Side, Why Are Corporate Alumni Relations Important For Business?
Although a people-first approach should be taken in light of the difficult employment landscape, there are also benefits for businesses that wish to work towards recovery.
Here is how you can leverage your corporate alumni network to be an important pillar of support for your business through this period and beyond.
A Talent Pool To Dip Into
Your alumni network can be a bottomless supply of the talent resources that you need to uplift the business and ensure its agility in uncertain times. An engaged community will be ready to contribute their time and skills to achieve specific business goals within the organization.
For example, the move to remote and digital work has opened up the need for tech-aware, digitally-savvy workers who can lead the transition and meet the new normal. Your network is a resource for finding the people who can do this, either through referrals or employee boomerangs.
These are both great sources of hires and can deliver 6X ROI on recruitment. Research shows that companies with an alumni program can fill up to 20% of open requisitions through it.
Access To Extensive Networks
Perhaps the most valuable benefit of maintaining corporate alumni relations for your company is the gift of networks. Your alumni could be the connection your business needs at some point or another.
Motivate your army ex-employees by showing them “What’s In It For Me” and you will be rewarded with support in the form of business collaborations and connections, even sales.
Furthermore, because connections are made digitally as much as physically today, your alumni can grow your reach substantially. By sharing your message or content via their social media channels, your organization is put in front of all their online followers, potentially their followers’ followers, and so on. It’s great PR for your business, with a personal endorsement from the people who know your company at its best and worst.
Alumni programs form an important part of pre-and post-employment interactions, and corporates are beginning to recognize that. As the world begins to put the pieces back together and transition to a new way of doing things, relationships are the strongest thing that anyone has to offer.
How you care for your workers tells the world what your company is about. So, when thinking about your corporate alumni relations, your motto should be “people first.”