Managing an alumni network

What is the Alumni Member Experience?

Sadhana ran the award-winning Barclays Global Alumni programme, created the London Alumni Directors Forum and continues to share Alumni Management insights

In this series of articles, we started off reviewing the benefits of an Alumni programme from the view of the organisation. This article focuses on the Alumni member and their experience with the programme. 

The first question to ask when designing the programme is what’s in it for the Alumni?  

The offboarding experience is now as important as the onboarding experience within the employee lifecycle. This is particularly relevant with average tenure in role falling and changing jobs every few years is now considered the norm. A BBC news article cites that 5 years is the average period an employee stays with their organisation; for the US it is 4 years. When tenure is assessed on an industry specific basis, there are wide variations, e.g. in the US tech industry, average time with an employer is 3 years. There are generational differences too, with baby boomers typically having longer employment periods with the same employer vs millennials.  

Therefore, the benefits for an Alumni programme member must be compelling enough to motivate an individual to sign up. A small number of organisations have taken the approach to enrol employees into their Alumni programme on day 1 of employment, e.g. McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group. Their drivers are linked to business generation opportunities, building a network and staying connected to individuals early on, and raising awareness of the programme. For the majority of organisations, the Alumni programme is introduced as part of the offboarding experience. If job and employer changes are becoming ever more frequent, the Alumni offering has to stand out and has to be compelling. 

What do Alumni Value?

From my own past experience as Head of Barclays Global Alumni Programme, the Alumni experience was part of the strategy to build the programme. The programmes’ purpose was centred around building a strong and powerful network between former and current colleagues. Membership was voluntary and rose to be in the thousands around the world. From research conducted internally and externally, here is a self-compiled list of what makes the Alumni member experience rich, engaging and worthwhile: 

Company insights

Having invested in an organisation through being employed there, many individuals want to stay updated with news about the organisation, leadership, successes and awards.

People Insights

A who’s who; a movers and shakers; a what’s new. There are many labels to cover sharing updates as to what people are doing in their careers. 

Staying connected

First and foremost, individuals have actively chosen to be part of an Alumni programme, therefore they want to stay part of the network with that organisation and former and current employees. Whether that’s to see how individual colleagues are progressing, the business area or the whole organisation, there is a connection of both professional camaraderie and pride in sharing successes 

Career Development

Access to career opportunities is the most in demand benefit for members. It can range from early notification of vacancies, being fast tracked through the application process, referral payments if applicable. For the individuals, engagement levels will be higher and they enter the process with a deeper and more realistic understanding of the role.  

A more recent trend has arisen from entrepreneurship whereby Alumni want to promote their new ventures to their former colleagues for advocacy and support.  


This refers to benefits that can only be accessed through the Alumni programme. It can range from invitations to company sponsored events, such as art exhibitions, early release of tickets, to hearing from high profile speakers at Alumni events. There is a reciprocal benefit here too, as Alumni will advocate this element of the programme increasing the interest from others to join 

Social network 

Humans are gregarious by nature, and we cannot underestimate the power of enabling colleagues to get together for social purposes. From that, long standing connections, networks and future partnerships can grow, which in turn strengthen the Alumni network. The other benefit is that members are part of a shared experience, which fosters trust and openness, leading to building stronger connections. 

Underpinning all of these benefits should be the option to personalise the experience to their interests and needs and so that they can dip in and out as they choose.  

In summary, if the Alumni member experience is positive, engaging and valued by members, this will in turn naturally drive the programme outcomes around building membership, advocacy and tangible goals around rehires, referrals and business. 

This article is the fifth in a series exploring Alumni programs, how to set them up, benefits and experiences. The authors are both former heads of Alumni programs from large, global financial services firms. If you enjoyed reading this, catch up on the first and second articles, "Why Have an Alumni Program?" and "What are the Building Blocks of a Successful Corporate Alumni Program?".

Sadhana is the SME for Strategic Workforce Planning at Pearson and works with organisations to develop and build their SWP strategy. Sadhana is an experienced HR specialist who has worked in various HR roles in banking (Barclays), wholesale distribution (Rexel Groupe) and broadcast media (ITN).  Sadhana is viewed as an expert in career transition and headed the Barclays Career Transition Services team for 4 years. Alongside this, Sadhana ran the award-winning Barclays Global Alumni programme, created and chaired the London Alumni Directors, and continues to share insights on best practice for Alumni programme management. 

Sadhana is a published author, having contributed her research
to the SAGE Handbook of Mentoring (2017), and holds an MA in HR Management from the University of Westminster and a BSc in Genetics from Queen Mary, London University.

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