Traditionally employees and corporate alumni have been seen as two separate groups: you work hard to engage your employees and you dip into engaging your corporate alumni when it's necessary. However, as the employee life-cycle changes and boomerang hires account for a greater percentage of your team, it is imperative that we stop separating employees and alumni. We need to see alumni engagement as an extension of employee engagement, a way of keeping your company culture alive with someone even when they’re no longer working for you full time.
Research from Gallup shows that in the US only a third of employees are actively engaged in their workplace. While we recognize employee engagement to be a good thing because it tends to correlate with higher levels of productivity, that’s not the only benefit to your business. We know that companies with high levels of employee engagement are likely to have lower levels of staff turnover, a stronger recruiting platform, and higher stock prices. These are all areas in which your alumni can also play a role.
When we see alumni engagement as an extension of employee engagement, we create a virtuous circle. Engaged alumni are more likely to want to return to your organisation as boomerang hires. They’re more likely to positively review your business on employee rating sites such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn. And they’re more likely to send business your way or actively work with you as a client. This alumni activity then feeds back to your current employees who see your business as a place people want to come back to, which externally has a high brand value and where work is flowing. Engaged alumni equal engaged employees.
Keep It Rewarding
Traditionally when an employee left the business, they lost access to the perks that went along with it. Today, however, it’s becoming more common to find ways to reward your company alumni for their loyalty in the same way you would employees. At EnterpriseAlumni we have retail clients who offer an “alumni loyalty card" to members of their network. This card offer discounts and points for becoming a customer of the brand. Equally, if your business is known for the branded swag it hands out to new joiners, think about how you could send some of this to new members of your alumni network. It’s a simple way of keeping your brand in their minds (and their eyeline) even when they’re no longer in your office.
Another example of this is by including alumni in your company events. We know that company alumni really value the opportunity to be able to keep in touch with former colleagues and access the networks of their former employer. If, as a business, you’re able to attract first-class speakers for your events or have access to exclusive venues or experiences, then these are all perks that your alumni will appreciate. Our events manager allows you to match events to your alumni, create attendee lists and see who actually made it, so you can see the level of engagement an event generates and adjust the next one to do even better.
Make use of wiser heads
When you start to see your alumni as part of your team alongside your employees, you can then also see the ways your alumni add value to your business. For example, bringing your alumni in as mentors or coaches. They already know the business and the culture, so they have a headstart in helping newer or more junior employees navigate it. You can also make them part of your business development team. We know that engaged members of an alumni network are more likely to refer business than an alumni who sits outside of an active network, so use this to your advantage. Analyse your alumni data to find the people currently working in the industries and organisations that your business development team wants to target and forge links between the two.
And of course, just as engaged employees are less likely to leave your business, so engaged alumni are more likely to return. At EnterpriseAlumni some of our customers fill up to 20% of their open roles via their alumni network. This is not only a huge cost saving but means they’re hiring people who have a shorter time to productivity because they already know the business. The speed of this is only possible because they value and prioritise the engagement of their alumni.
Treating your alumni engagement as something separate from your employee engagement misses the true value of alumni. Just because your alumni are no longer working for you directly doesn’t mean that they aren’t invested in your success nor does it mean they don’t want to support you. All our research shows that engaged alumni want to be a part of their former employer’s growth – and they’ll go out of their way to support that.
To find out more about how you can boost engagement, read how EnterpriseAlumni helps you to deepen your relationship with alumni.