Alumni: Engaging and attracting the talent you've already invested in

At Alexander Mann Solutions, our clients are showing real progress in total talent management - an understanding mirrored within our own agile workforce.

The war for talent has become the status quo and we know this is unlikely to change over the coming decade. According to the Office for National Statistics, unemployment in the UK is now the highest since records began in 1971. With this figure creeping up in most developed countries, firms are having to be more creative and deliberate than ever before, ensuring they proactively engage their staff at all levels. To replace them takes time, resources and of course money – but also impacts engagement and delivery and therefore the bottom line, and that is if you can find the right person at all.

Retaining talent and developing them within the organization is, therefore, the smartest solution – and firms are becoming increasingly astute as to how to do this well. But sometimes people leave for reasons beyond the control of the company.

Therefore, our next best option is engaging with and attracting the top talent you have already invested in to bring their learning and experience back to the firm. Alumni hiring in some parts of the world is thought of as the practice of helping those who went to the same college or school as you did, (and as an aside, this doesn’t do much for diversity efforts). But what about the alumni of your organization?

People’s work environment has never been more important and the connections you make within it can result in opportunity, mentorship, business development, and even friendship. So when they leave, why would we not continue to develop that network? As the skills and IP you invested in the head out the door, it is too good an opportunity not to track them until you have an opportunity or need for them, or until they are ready to return.

In addition, people are moving companies more than ever before, and as they do so, they gather insights and experiences from different environments, as well as working practices that can all help build a better version of our own firms when they return and share. But how do you stay in touch? How do you keep track of their skills so that you know where they are and can bring them back when needed?

In the world of talent acquisition and management, some firms do this very well. At Alexander Mann Solutions, our clients are showing real progress in total talent management. We ourselves have an agile workforce that depends on a deep understanding of both our existing talent and those who have worked for us previously. We gather and hold a self-populated talent bank of people’s skills, mobility profiles, preferred working patterns and aspirations. As they leave, with their permission, we keep in touch and update this as we learn about their next roles. With over 4000 staff this can be challenging, but what if you are 40,000 or more?

The rise of dedicated alumni tools is inevitable as we automate and add intelligence to the practice of tracking and rehiring our former talent. Tools such as EnterpriseAlumni provide a fully integrated platform for this treasure chest of skills to be found and engaged when needed. All of this depends, however, on how they feel about returning.

How do you treat those who leave? Are you gracious and supportive? Or do you display inconvenience or even worse bitterness? Intelligent employers will listen openly to feedback, support their move, encourage their development and be clear about the door being open for a return at some stage in the future. Alexander Mann Solutions prides itself on its “boomerangs” – those who returned having left for another challenge, be it with a competitor or something completely unrelated. This break and then return creates diversity of thinking that may just be the key to success.

Look after your talent, and if they leave, be supportive, off-board them exquisitely and use the right tools and skills to ensure you are ready and waiting to have them back.

Lisa Forrest is Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Alexander Mann Solutions and currently focused on outsourcing and consulting advisory services to enable large organizations to attract, engage and retain top talent.

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