Hire Perfect Employees for Your Businessby Alumni Content in Alumni Leaders Podcast | Last Edited: 03rd December 2020
Podcast Name: Culture Building like a PRO Podcast
Episode: Ep. 86 – Hire Perfect Employees For Your Business With An Alumni Network
Air Date: 4th August 2020
Host: Dionna Appling, Owner, Trainer, and Coach of B.A. PRO, Inc.
Guest: James Sinclair, Chief Executive of EnterpriseAlumni
On the Culture Building Like A Pro Podcast, Dionna and James talk about why businesses can’t settle for just being a good company. They actually have to take steps to be a great one. Talent retention is a privilege and not a right, a privilege that a business has to earn every day.
Imagine that you treat every single human you interact with you as you would treat your best customer. Then think about the employees who have left you, because when they leave you, it’s really a promotion from employee to customer.
Now imagine if they came back, how easy it would be for them to get rolling. It’s up to you to build a workplace that people want to come back to.
- Why employees who return after leaving are essentially gold when it comes to hiring great talent.
- Employees leave because of the opportunities you gave them; it makes sense to stay in touch. They are your biggest brand advocates the second they walk out the door.
- Why, in times of downsizing, an alumni group can be a lifeboat resource for employees to lean on.
- How a steering community within a company can help to advocate for voices that need to be heard and ensure that employees’ needs are met.
Original Link: https://baproinc.com/ep86/
James Sinclair (00:00): Dionna Appling (09:48):
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You've got to remember that when people walk out the door and go to their new job, someone's going to say, "Hey, where were you before this?" And they're going to either say, "I was at this company and I escaped," or they're going to say, "Oh, I was at this company, amazing guys. This is what they do. This is what I learned. You know, maybe there's something we could do with them in the future." And it's your choice. But that moment exists for a hundred percent of people that leave your organization. Treat every single touch point with every single human you interact with as you would treat your best customer. And you have to think about that with the people that have left you, because when they've left you, it's really a promotion from employee to customer. If they came back to you five years later, think about how quickly they would get rolling.
Think about how quickly they would be impactful. Think about the fact that you won't have to pay a recruiter's fee. 80% of all people would return back to the organization if the right opportunity arose. And we also know that when they come back, they stay two years longer. They're highly productive, that at the time it takes them to kind of onboard and learn all the intricacies of your company is obviously minimal compared to someone off LinkedIn or Indeed. But it's no longer good enough to just be a good company as in not doing the wrong thing. You actually have to take steps to be a great company. Many people have accepted just not being a bad company as being good, and that's not correct. Talent retention is a privilege and not a right. And I have to earn that privilege every single day with every member of staff that I have. It doesn't matter where they are in the food chain.
Welcome to the Culture Building Like a Pro Podcast, helping small business owners and managers lead a company culture where employees are engaged to do their best work because they want to and not because they have to. Now let's jumpstart your culture transformation with company culture strategist, leadership coach, and trainer Dionna Appling.
Dionna Appling (01:47):
Happy Tuesday everyone, and thanks for listening to the Culture Building Like a Pro Podcast. I'm your host, Dionna, and I'm really excited about today's episode because I have a special guests with me. James Sinclair, who is the chief executive and co-founder of Enterprise Alumni, the market leading alumni and retiree engagement platform. Their software powers the corporate alumni networks of the world's largest companies by leveraging the vast untapped pool of people for talent, sales, marketing, and community. He has a background in large enterprise innovation, having worked for companies, including IBM, SAB and EDS. Outside of his day job, James also contributes content to media on the future of work, large enterprise innovation and entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for joining me today, James.
James Sinclair (02:44):
Thanks for having me on, that was such a great intro. I might have you just record that for every time I join any conversation.
Dionna Appling (02:51):
My pleasure. I'm so excited to have you because you and I had the opportunity to get acquainted some weeks back. And even in that brief conversation, we honestly could have made that the episode of the podcast. We just were able to have such great dialogue about all things related to alumni networks, and I'm excited to actually have that be shared on the podcast today.
James Sinclair (03:18):
Love that. Thank you for having me. Yeah, totally agree. We could have just recorded our pre-chat and just published that and be done.
Dionna Appling (03:24):
Yeah, we could have, but that's okay because now we have the opportunity to dive into that a little bit more. So to kick things off, I would love for you to share with everyone a little bit more about who you are and what an alumni network is.
James Sinclair (03:41):
I love that. So my name is James Sinclair. I'm the co-founder of Enterprise Alumni, and what we do is we focus on this conversation of post-employment. So organizations spends so much time and money trying to find a perfect candidate. It doesn't matter if you're a small business or a large business, you spend time and money trying to find the perfect person for your organization. They join you. You spend even more time and money training, upskilling, perks, benefits, quality of life, mental health, all of these things to make sure that you retain them. And then when they leave, it's kind of like, "Well, here's a cupcake best of luck with your life." And so we focus on the cupcake component, which is actually when they leave, they're leaving because of the opportunities you gave them, because of the training you gave them, and it makes sense to stay in touch. Maybe they're going to come back as an employee later in life, maybe they refer someone, but most importantly, they are your biggest brand advocates the second they walk out your door.
Dionna Appling (04:36):
I absolutely love that. And what you said was the main reason I was so excited to have you on the podcast today because I feel that that perspective of who employees are to companies once they leave has not been discussed enough. And I love the idea of looking at that as a relationship that should still be nurtured after someone has walked away, having the knowledge and the information that they gained working for your company. And I sometimes find that a lot of business owners or managers have a completely different perspective on that. They almost look at an employee leaving as a slap in the face. Yes.
James Sinclair (05:24):
Traitor, they've left me high and dry. What am I going to do? How am I going to do it? And we tell companies, you're looking at it wrong. The reason they're going to the next role is because of the opportunities you've afforded them, because of the experience they've gained with you, because you're a great employer. But I think the second side of it comes to kind of why you and I originally connected, which is the perfect time to find out what the company culture is like is how you treat someone as they walk out the door.
And you've got to remember that when people walk out the door and go to their new job, someone is going to say, "Hey, where were you before this?" And they're going to either say, "I was at this company and I escaped, phew," or they're going to say, "Oh, I was at this company, amazing guys. This is what they do. This is what I learned. You know, maybe there's something we could do with them in the future." And it's your choice. But that moment exists for a hundred percent of people that leave your organization. So there is no stronger moment for culture brand accuracy, employer brand, or whatever one wants to call it.
Dionna Appling (06:18):
Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more. And in light of that, especially living in the time that we're living in right now in this pandemic and work forces have drastically shifted. I mean, we're in a pandemic right now, and this would be a prime opportunity to consider what your alumni network is, if you have one, and if you haven't had one, how can you go about doing that? What would your thoughts be for a company right now who is realizing that they sort of have to start from scratch in terms of bringing people back after being laid off, or getting new people and recruiting new people, what should they do at this point?
James Sinclair (07:05):
So in terms of the action item, the action item is take the first step. And we talked to a lot of companies, big and small, and even small companies like, "Why do I need it? There's only 12 of us." The reality is if you think about some of the people in your small organization, most of them probably came from a referral. Most of them came from your network, came from your people. So whether you're going to go with a platform like Enterprise Alumni, or you're going to go with a LinkedIn group, or you're just going to get an email address and every now and again, ping them an email. You know, if someone leaves to go to a different job, why wouldn't you email them three weeks later and say, "Hey, I just want to make sure you're doing well in your new job. I wish you the best of luck. We miss you. Let us know if we can ever do anything for you."
Imagine receiving that email from your old manager three weeks after you're into your new job, it would blow your mind. And you want to talk about culture, there's where it is. But I think a lot of organizations specifically right now are in a very unfortunate position that the layoffs they're doing are not because of performance. They're not because people are leaving to go to better jobs. They're just having to downsize because of the market. And so you have people that are having to leave their jobs, not by anyone's choice, but because of market conditions. So this is the time to make sure that when those people that you are downsizing and leaving, that you are being the resource to them and recognizing that it's an awful position for everybody.
I have an amazing example of one of our larger customers who laid off thousands of people, and the CEO came onto our alumni network and did a town hall. He invited all the people who were terminated to come in and have a conversation with him. And he basically talked about the fact that A, how sorry he was, B, what he thinks recovery might look like, as in if you're holding out hoping the market's going to turn, and you're hoping all business is going to recover, you might be waiting a long time because we think it's going to take 22 months. But he also said, this is the time to learn new skills. This is the time to get new competencies. There are all of these new skills that companies now need that they didn't need yesterday. How to use Zoom, how to do technical support on Zoom, how to do digital programming, remote meetings. All of these companies have had to change how they work, and with that, there are now new skills and new opportunities.
And he basically told all the people he terminated, come back to us with new competencies, come back and say to us, "We want more money now because I now am an expert in X, Y, and Z." And I thought that was a really telling example of a great CEO who, in the worst of times, has been able to tell people, "Hey, this is what you need to do. This is how I can support you. And this is how I can help you." And the reason he was able to do that is because he's built a culture of being authentic. And so when he talked, everyone listened and everyone respected what he was saying. And I thought that was a really good example of just kind of great leadership, even in the worst of times.
That is the perfect example of leadership. Everything that I hear from that is compassion and just simply caring about the people who worked for him, which is unfortunately something that isn't considered normal in a lot of different companies. One of the things that I have been saying since this pandemic has happened, is that now we're going to start seeing where priorities lie when it comes to leadership. This is a stressful time for everyone. But the fact that the CEO who you're speaking of took the time to stop everything and to bring his people together, even though they had to leave, he still showed that he cared for them and he encouraged them and motivated them to actually do something that would further them in their career and not just necessarily benefit his company if they came back.
James Sinclair (10:45):
It was just the right thing to do. I saw a post on LinkedIn, not one of our customers, a guy who was leaving WestJet, an airline, and he wrote a post on LinkedIn saying, "I'm leaving, not by choice. I've been here for nearly a decade." He wrote this lovely post. And the first comment under it was from the CEO who said, "This is a lovely post. I'm so sorry this happened. You are going to go on to do amazing things." And the conversation that I had with him when I reached out was there were more employer brand moments from that than anything else you could ever do. The impressions, the likes, the comments of seeing the CEO respond to an employee that was let go, his article, and be compassionate and be authentic. You can't buy that. And so you're a hundred percent right. This is going to show leaders for who they truly are and whether they're following through on their hashtags. Is it a relationship for life or is it a relationship until you leave?
Dionna Appling (11:34):
Mm, yes, absolutely. It is. This is a time of exposure, which is going to be telling, and it may even be challenging for a lot of businesses and business owners. But what happens after, I think, is really, what's going to show forth the type of leader that they are striving to be because not everyone gets everything right. But I think that we're seeing also a good example of that on the flip side, in terms of what has also been a big issue in our country right now, in terms of racial injustice.
And when that has been exposed, even more than it already has over the years, we have been seeing an outpouring of companies who are no longer silent, and they're voicing their concern and their action plan to make sure that diversity and inclusion is seen and witnessed in their workplace, even though it may not have been in the past. So I would love to know in terms of an alumni network and the benefit of that, how can that help companies who are in that position of realizing that they need to do something to be more inclusive and to welcome diversity in their workforce?
James Sinclair (12:51):
So much to unpack there, and I totally agree. This conversation of uncomfortable conversations has been amazing. I can tell you as an organization ourself, we actually changed a little bit of our guidance. I've always been of the belief that happy customers solve everything. That's just been my guiding kind of light, that happy customers will get you new customers. You're going to get more customers because you get more customers, you get more revenue with more revenue, you can solve more problems. So I've always had this view. And over the past few months of having some really amazing conversations and going through a learning experience myself, I've actually realized I was wrong. Happy employees solve everything because happy employees are thrilled to deliver happy customers. And I think it's okay to restate and be like, "You know what? I've actually had the wrong perspective." And that came because one of our employees we were talking about... So we have a couple of employees that are on immigration green card processes, and we're delighted.
We're happy to hire the best person for the role. We don't really care if we're going to have to pay a couple of thousand dollars to sponsor them. And it's so weird how many companies look at kind of sponsoring an employee as like, "Oh, I don't want you. I'm going to have to go through all of the crap of getting you a visa and all of those things." I look at it very differently. And one of the people I was speaking to was like, "You were the first company I interviewed with where that wasn't even a conversation, wasn't even brought up. It wasn't even in like one of the questions in a pre-interview, nothing. And when I then told you about it, you said, 'Amazing,' and you moved onto the next topic." And he's like, "And that's what makes you a great company." I was like, "No, that doesn't make us a great company. That's just not being a crap company."
And so I've also changed the guidance that it's no longer good enough to just be a good company, as in like not doing the wrong thing. You actually have to take steps to be a great company. And I think many people have accepted just not being a bad company as being good, and that's not correct. You actually have to take steps and say, "Actually, just because I'm not doing something bad, it doesn't make me a good company. What can I do more?" And I think specifically around DNI, that goes into a lot of topics all the way from making sure that your website is accessible to people who are hard of hearing and hard of seeing, or the way to the voices, it's accessibility and kind of inclusion of voices is different to everybody in your company, whether it's around gender or race or any of those items.
And what we've seen a lot of our customers do is reach out to this community and say, "Look, if you take our alumni network..." Let's take one of our bigger customers, 50,000 alumni. It is predominantly white and male. And so the largest or loudest voice in that community is predominantly white and male. And so we have alumni leaders who have gone in and said, "Actually, we need to actively have a steering committee for these different groups to make sure A, their voices are being heard, make sure we identify the values they need." And something that came out of it, and it was absolutely amazing, was this concept that a lot of people from kind of these underserved or unheard communities didn't have mentors that looked like them. And I'm going to hopefully say this correctly and I'll take guidance on this, but essentially this guy was a black product manager.
And he said, "One of the things that I don't think people recognize is my mentor is not a black product manager because I'm really the first generation of black product managers in software companies. So my mentor doesn't look like your mentor." And so the company recognized that and was like, "Huh, there's a real gap there. How do we make sure that your mentor looks like you?" And again, I know there's a lot to unpack and I'm perhaps not explaining it as amazing as I wish I could, but it's something that I'd never even contemplated because my mentor looks like me. It never even was a conversation that I thought about that for this plant product manager, his mentor did not look like him, and that makes it difficult for that mentor to be able to align, understand, provide authentic feedback that is going to be serving to his mentee. And so this company is starting a specific program to recognize and identify with that. So I hope you can get that jumble and turn it into something more eloquent, but does that make sense?
Dionna Appling (16:46):
It makes perfect sense. There's no need to try to shift that change, that it's simple and it's very to the point, which is what needs to be shared. And I'm so thankful that you agree with the importance of having these uncomfortable conversations and understanding that differences exists and we have to be cognizant of that. What I appreciate most about the approach that you all have taken as a company with Enterprise Alumni, with the clients that you have, is being able to identify a problem area like that to see that there are no diverse voices within one of your client's network and being able to advocate for the voices that should be represented. That's a level of authenticity that I feel safe in saying that many companies may not be willing to do because they feel that it could ruffle feathers or...
James Sinclair (17:45):
Yeah, and comfortable. It's uncomfortable. I might say the wrong, I might phrase it incorrectly. We, again, internally with our customers on running surveys is we realize we needed to enable a safe space where people can ask questions or criticize and the purpose of the alumni network isn't to make sure everything is perfect and rosy and rainbows and unicorns. It's to make sure that people who have those questions, for people who have concerns, who have criticisms can voice them and could be heard. And so that's something over the past few months we've really been focused on because I think that example of that mentor concept, my mentor doesn't look like me, actually was so impactful to us that we were like, "Huh, what do we need to think of from a product perspective?" Because we've always tried to serve the mass market, and actually we need to make product changes to make sure we're serving all of these communities.
Dionna Appling (18:39):
That is awesome. I absolutely love that. Now in terms of an alumni network and the benefits of it, I'm sure that for those who may not be too familiar with an alumni network and they're learning about it for the first time through this episode, they want to know a little bit more. They're probably listening and thinking, "That makes sense. I never considered that, but what's the benefit? What's the benefit of us to do it as a company, as well as for the people who we have in this alumni network?" What are your thoughts on that for someone who has that question?
James Sinclair (19:16):
So sometimes the stuff that counts the most is the most difficult to count. And what I mean by that is it's the right thing to do. And yes, I can give you a load of KPIs, ROIs, numbers, and I'm going to, but the right thing to do is a difficult thing to count and measure, which makes it sometimes difficult for organizations to embrace it. But I will tell you that the CHR of Starbucks has this phrase, and I hope I'm attributing to the right person, where he basically said a few years ago, I think I read it, "Treat every single touch point with every single human you interact with as you would treat your best customer." And you have to think about that with the people that have left you, because when they've left you, it's really a promotion from employee to customer because they could be a customer.
They could be a brand advocate, they could be a referral, but the biggest KPIs, if they came back to you five years later, think about how quickly they would get rolling. Think about how quickly they would be impactful. Think about the fact that you won't have to pay a recruiter's fee. So what I do know from the data we have on our customers is about 80% of all people would return back to the organization if the right opportunity arose. And we also know that when they come back, they stay two years longer, they're highly productive, but at the time it takes them to kind of onboard and learn all the intricacies of your company is obviously minimal compared to someone off LinkedIn or Indeed, or you hire a stranger per se. So the data exists in terms of the impact they're going to have on your organization.
Think about that one extra like on your LinkedIn post or your Instagram, think about if everyone that's ever worked for you was to like and share your content. So when I put it into a measurable format, you really got to think about what you need as a company. Is it customers? Is it recruits? Is it just branding? Is it getting out there? And you've got all these people that have had these experiences with you, and if you made that experience of leaving an amazing experience, "Congratulations, we wish you luck and we mean it." These are people that will support your business for the rest of their life.
Dionna Appling (21:05):
100%, something that I am hugely an advocate on is looking at leadership as an opportunity to not just bring out the best in people, but to create more leaders. And that's really what I hear a lot of in what you just shared. The concept of focusing on relationship building. That's something that I definitely talk about a lot, because I do consider employee engagement as relationship building. It's not just a survey, it's not a program. It's not an initiative. It's engaging in a relationship with the people who work with you. And what you just shared in my opinion is what the benefits of relationship building is and looking at the employee experience as something that truly is an experience, and you're a catalyst for whether that experience is good, bad, beneficial, or dreadful, which ultimately creates what that culture is. And if your employees and the employees who leave can't say that they enjoyed working for your company or the leadership that they had there, what does that truly say about your culture? Because it's not what's put on the website. That's not the culture.
James Sinclair (22:25):
The culture is what they tell their brother or sister who says, "Hey, I've got an interview over there." That's what the culture is and what you say in private. And I 100% agree with you. And I think this whole concept of your network is your net worth is something so critical, and people sometimes forget about it. Look, people sometimes leave because you can't give them the career progression they want. So maybe they are leaving a tad unhappy because they like your company, but you didn't give them the promotion they expected or something. That's also okay. But the onus is on you as a company to take the high ground and say, "Look, I'm sorry, we couldn't make this work. I'm sorry we couldn't give you that role. However, you're going to go to this new company and you're going to crush it, and we still support you."
That even a negative leave, aside from an awful leave as in like someone having a tantrum and throwing a chair out of the window, but even an awful leave or a bad leave because of a bad manager can still be managed in a respectful and a good way. And people always talk about karma and these things come around and they go around. It's not karma. It's predictability. There is a chance you're going to interact with these people at some time again in your life. There is a predictable cycle to it, and if you treat every touch point and every person authentically and how you want to be treated, you're going to win. And you're going to win tenfold over.
Dionna Appling (23:36):
I just love that we are having this untapped conversation of what to do with the people who leave and how they should really be treated and how leaders can really cultivate that relationship with them, because you're right. It is predictability. And I would love to know just from your experience with the clients that you have and helping them with their alumni network. I don't know if the percentage is the right term to use, but in general, what's the likelihood of bringing past employees back into a workforce?
James Sinclair (24:10):
Well, this is just a layup. So we just did an amazing webinar with EY and Citi, and combined they have an alumni talent pool of 1.5 million people. So we're talking about titans and monsters of industry. And EY said 17% of their entire employee base are returners, and Citi said 12%. And we know from the market data, Microsoft's about 15%. So the answer is huge percentages. And if you start to assign a small value on that, how much time it takes you to recruit that person, train that person, all of a sudden the numbers add up very, very quickly, no matter how big you are. So even if you're a small organization, and it's you as the CEO who's having to put it on LinkedIn and review every resume. Even if you were to convert those hours to dollars, imagine not having to do that.
And the risk that when they start, they're not quite the person you expected them to be. Because it takes a minute to actually work out, "Well, maybe they can do the job, but maybe you thought they were going to be better." So they're good enough, but they're not great. I think you talked about this when we spoke, which is that you sometimes go into these teams inside of companies where the team perhaps is a little bit toxic or the team is having a culture issue. Where the company culture is great as an organizational level, but perhaps it hasn't trickled down to all of these elements of the business who bought into it. And I think that's the thing when we think about employee experience is so important is it's part of the company. It's not this thing in the basement. Leaving is not a secret.
You are going to leave. One of the things I ask every interviewee that comes to our organization, and again we're very small, is in three years when you leave us, what job will you be getting? And the reason I want to know is I want to know what I have to do within the three years to make sure that they stay. And because I fundamentally believe that talent retention is a privilege and not a right. And I have to earn that privilege every single day with every member of staff that I have. It doesn't matter where they are in the food chain. And that approach, again, a newer approach from my side. I don't want to come across as this angelic person that's always been the greatest. I'm not. But listening and being in business and being a business owner like yourself, forces you to understand and make those changes to yourself as well. And one of those large changes was recognizing that an employee is a privilege to have, and you've got to earn that every single day, period.
Dionna Appling (26:26):
Oh, I could not agree with you more. And in my opinion, it doesn't sound like alumni networks have been included as business strategy enough, just in general. Now granted, I don't know everything about every company that there is out here, but just in my experience, this just isn't something that's talked about enough, but it's good for business. It just-
James Sinclair (26:50):
It's insane for business, but I get it. Some people are going to say, "Why would we spend money on people that have left us versus spending money on the people with us?" And it's not an or conversation it's an and conversation. And that's really, really important. And look, some people just don't buy into it. Some people have that traitor mentality. And I would tell you, it's more senior people. We have the last generation in the workforce who will have worked at a company for 50 years. This is the last generation that's heading into retirement who've had one job for life, but we know that... I think I heard another phrase the other day, which is my dad had one job for life. I'm going to have four jobs in my lifetime. My son is going to have four jobs right now. And I think that's a good way to think about it. That this conversation around leaving, it's inevitable. So why aren't we talking about it more? Why is it such a weird silo or something not discussed? We know you're going to leave. The question is when, how, and under what terms?
Dionna Appling (27:44):
You're absolutely right about that. And I think it's so interesting as well because in a lot of cases, and I've experienced that resistance in working with certain clients, you can have a team of leaders who about, if it's five of them, three of them on board and they understand that there needs to be culture change. That there's a problem, and we need to address it. It's affecting this business and it's affecting our employees and turnover. But then you have those two who just don't feel like the issue is within the business. They just feel like, "Hey, we just aren't finding the right people." But shifting the perspective to focus on what's best for people is what's going to drive good business. And once people get that concept and understand that you're investing in your people so that they can be the best versions of themselves within their career is good for you.
James Sinclair (28:40):
I have an example from something I read this morning, which is there is a large Hollywood talent agency that when you join as an assistant, your email address is not your name. It's like firstname.lastname@example.org. And the reason is because assistants burn and come and go so often. So why would we invest in actually giving you a name? Let's just give you an email address so that way when your replacement comes in, because we fire you or because you leave or whatever reason, cause we're not paying you enough money, we don't have to worry about it. And this morning they came up and the big article was this agency will now call assistants by their name.
Dionna Appling (29:13):
Thankfully. Why is that even a thing?
James Sinclair (29:16):
I literally, I had to click. I was like this is click bait. This is going to go to something. It's going to be some weird ad for something I'm going to have. Nope. Turns out... And people are congratulating them for making the change. And I agree. I congratulate them as well because better late than never. And I'm glad to see change happen. And you can't be annoyed when someone changes. Yes, you can be a slightly annoyed that it wasn't soon enough, but they've made the change, but it was something I'd never even considered. Can you imagine taking an assistant job at a company and your email address being assistant 17?
Dionna Appling (29:44):
It's demoralizing. That's horrible. That's horrible. That's a prime example of looking at an employee as a resource rather than a person. And it's sad, and I agree with you. Yes. Thankfully, they've gotten to a point, here in 2020, where they realized that this is important, but I can imagine how many conversations and how many complaints took place to get them to this point. And essentially what people would have been complaining about is being acknowledged as a person.
James Sinclair (30:18):
I'm a human too.
Dionna Appling (30:20):
My goodness. That's interesting
James Sinclair (30:23):
It was literally this morning, so timely on this conversation. But I think that goes to everything that you talk about as well, which is just being human, having empathy, doing the right thing. And companies have a choice, but also people have a choice and it has to start with the people. The people want to make that change. You can have any company culture you want, it doesn't make a difference if when you funnel it down, it doesn't actually exist. And I think this has been a great opportunity with everything going on from Black Lives Matters, from COVID, from all of these issues, this has given a company an opportunity to rip the bandaid off. All the things that they perhaps always knew they had to change, but how are they going to do it without having bad press? How are they going to do it without having backlash? This has given this opportunity that says, make all the changes you want to make right now because everyone's going to be forgiving.
Everyone's going to be appreciative. We might still laugh at you that it's taken this long, and we might still be annoyed its taken so long, but just do it. So I think this opportunity for difficult conversations and change and transformation is actually a positive overall. Obviously awful in a million ways, but you have to look at what are the positive outcomes? Well, the positive outcome is this company is going to call assistants by their name. The positive outcome is this one bank is going to have a program to make sure your mentors look like you. These are positive outcomes from people being willing to have difficult conversations and recognize now is the time to do it. Whether you're talking about alumni or not, it doesn't matter. This is a global conversation where people are going to be thankful and appreciative that you're recognizing and you're changing, and this is the time to do it. And that's okay. And I applaud any company that does it and they should be applauded, even if we think that it was ridiculous to begin with.
Dionna Appling (32:00):
You're absolutely right. Now is the time, and I think that goes back to what you said earlier about starting an alumni network. The first step is to just take the first step. For companies who are listening to this, business owners who are listening to this, managers, and they're realizing, "I need this. I need to learn more about this. I need to understand how this could work for us and what I should do to get started." What's the first thing that you suggest for them to do other than acknowledging that this is necessary? What's a practical step that they could take to no longer make excuses and rip that bandaid off to make change?
James Sinclair (32:44):
Number one, when people leave, get an external email address. Make sure you have a way to connect with these people when they lose your company email address. And so many companies forget about that. Then they want to contact them. They have to go back to LinkedIn, connect and send an InMail. Get a leaving email address. The second, if you want the very first thing, start a LinkedIn group, start a Facebook group, start a cadence program that says three weeks off to people who leave, the manager sends people an email wishing them the best of luck. Have a computer do it automatically so it doesn't have to start an end with buying software. And I think sometimes when people think about new programs and businesses, they're like, "Oh my God, the program is too big. How am I going to start?" And there's a term in sales, which is how am I going to eat the elephant? Because it just looks so big. And the answer is one bite at a time. That's how you eat an elephant.
And so I would tell any organization that this talent pool is so amazing. It's so beneficial. Just take one step to make sure your leaving process is a positive one. You're getting an external email, like a Gmail address, and perhaps either sending them an email every now and again, or inviting them to a LinkedIn group. And just maintaining some method that basically leaves the door open in case they want to refer someone, in case they want to like your content, in case they want to come back where they can.
Dionna Appling (33:56):
Thank you so much, James. I mean, I have so many other questions that I'm thinking about that I can certainly ask, but this episode would probably be about two hours long because this is such a good topic to just dive into. And I just know that it's going to be valuable for everyone listening. I love how you just referenced an alumni network as a talent pool. And if I would encourage anyone to take something away from this, if they perhaps aren't grasping the term of an alumni network, to just look at it as a talent pool of people who know your business. They know the job and why not, not just leverage that, but keep them engaged. And in a sense, just nurture that relationship to be of service to them post their employment with you, just like they were of service to you by working for you.
James Sinclair (34:52):
Yeah, totally agree. I mean, you nailed it. Just take one step, just be human and everything else. Put your employees first and everything else will fall into place.
Dionna Appling (35:00):
Always, always. This was so good. Thank you again, James. And if anyone wants to learn more about Enterprise Alumni or just get a better understanding of what they should do to start an alumni network, how can they get in contact with you?
James Sinclair (35:17):
Love that. I'm willing and happy to have conversations. I understand people are not going to go from hearing the podcast to whipping out a credit card and buying software. I want people to have the conversations. I want them to phone you and talk about how they can do it from an employee experience perspective. But also, they are welcome to contact me, James Sinclair or enterprisealumni.com. I'm on LinkedIn. I'm on Twitter. I answer almost everything. I'm always willing to make time for people who are exploring and thinking about how they can create a better employee experience. So people shouldn't be a stranger. They should be welcome to reach out and connect with me.
Dionna Appling (35:50):
Absolutely. And I'll make sure that all of your contact information is listed in the show notes so that people can reach out to you and keep this conversation going because it definitely needs to be had, and it needs to be continued.
James Sinclair (36:05):
I love that. Thank you so much for having me.
Dionna Appling (36:07):
No problem. Thank you.
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