Elevating your Alumni Program

Looking For Value in your Alumni Community? Be Inclusive

New customers launching an Alumni Group for their former employees often make an early decision to exclude pools of people from the program before launch.

What Is An Alumni Group

The definition of Alumni is normally defined as a group of former employees of an organization. However as the lines are blurring between employment types, many organizations enable their employees and various different former employee types to join the alumni network.

Segmenting Your Alumni Group

We often observe that some of our new customers launching an Alumni Platform for their prior employees make an early decision to immediately exclude pools of people from the program before launch. Sometimes it is former employees who joined the firm as interns or support staff – other times it may be be a tenure requirement and more often than not, there is an early decision to exclude existing employees.

Without a doubt some exclusions make sense, particularly if a company is launching with a sample group of participants such one as geographic area or vertical within a business. Testing in Europe only? Launching just with one specific division of the company? It definitely pays off to test and launch that way for some of our customers.

Other companies may have a shared services division overseas with very high levels of attrition or contractors or part time employees only with the company a very short time, and our customers decide they’d like to impose an eligibility requirement in their alumni program such as people must have worked for the organization for at least six months.

We understand that different segments of your population might need to be separated from others – or you may want to invite one group of people first and then invite others to follow. But when considering whether to exclude a group, do ask yourselves why. Why should some people be excluded? Why will those people not add to the sense of community you are building. Will that group of people genuinely pose a risk to your platform? Are you offending the very people you are trying to engage with by stating some people are invited – but some of their former colleagues are not?

Making The Alumni Group Inclusive

There is already an inherent privilege model in our platform to enable each Alumni to have an experience relative and contextual to who they are, their role or level in an organization, their competencies and skills and, for example, their region. Our platform provides a personal experience that befits the alumni logged in and looking around.

Yet there is often still a stigma of sorts around two core groups and whether they should be invited with customers asking:

  1. Should we invite employees? This is an Alumni platform, so why should we allow internal employees to join? It doesn’t make sense.

  1. Should we invite people in non-primary roles? In retail this might mean companies want to allow their “office” Alumni to join but not their “retail” staff ….. or in Accountants or Law Firms choosing they only want former accountants or lawyers to join and not the rest of the operational staff.

We think both groups should be admitted to alumni programs. And we already know how excluding them will play out from experience.

Initially, there is strong disagreement when we suggest the platform should be fully inclusive …. and then four months after going live, it is opened to employees and the wider community! We understand that for many organizations this is a result of seeing the impact of their alumni program, understanding the value proposition in greater depth, getting very positive feedback (and sometimes negative feedback about the exclusions!) once a platform goes live.

We understand an alumni platform is often new and customers are cautious. But we also have experience of the positive impact of an inclusive policy. Nonetheless we always make the case to be inclusive from day one because we want our customers to build a true community as opposed to a hierarchical society. We know that benefits are derived from including a broad range of of job roles and that diversity of opinion can create value.

In the case of excluding certain business functions or roles from the Alumni platform, the message it is sending is not one of inclusiveness or family but rather privilege and “these people are more important than you.” And that’s not a message anyone wants to imply.

Three Reasons To Allow Your Employees To Join The Alumni Network:

  1. Retention: If employees join the network, when they do leave they will already be members. It is much easier to grow the network from the inside out.

  2. Growth: Every employee likely knows an alumni or 3. Imagine if just 5% of your workforce invited their Alumni colleagues!

  3. Programming: You don’t have budget, resources or time to deliver ‘epic’ to your Alumni 24/7. Engaging your employees and learning what initiatives they are involved in that could benefit your Alumni and platform is critical.

Three Reasons To Extend To Non-Primary Roles (Operational):

  1. Value: For consumer brands or service and advisory businesses, alumni are often your customers – not just your former employees. Staying in touch is a business development opportunity.

  2. Growth: A bigger, more diverse community is in the best interests of everyone, the more people step up and engage the more others will follow.

  3. Advocacy: Alumni are your loudest evangelists. Why exclude people proud to be part of your corporate heritage and story?

Our experience is clear. We understand starting small and building momentum with certain specific slices of your community …. but diversity is key and the message you want to give all your alumni – not just some of your alumni – is that they are all welcome. Our platform allows you to give your alumni relevant and contextual experiences so you can afford to be open and inclusive and invite the broadest range of alumni onto your platform.

In most cases, the more the merrier!

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