The Transactional Dilemma Of A Corporate Alumni Programby Community Admin in Video | Last Edited: 28th October 2020
Alumni Leadership Series: The Transactional Dilemma Of A Corporate Alumni Program
In this episode of the Corporate Alumni Leaders Series, James Sinclair of EnterpriseAlumni is joined by panelists Carrie Melissa Jones and Lisa Morris for an hour-long webinar consisting of a 45-minute panel discussion, followed by a 15-minute Q&A.
Together, these three unpack the tricky task of building a business case, either to launch an alumni program or to create additional budget for an existing one.
5 Key Takeaways To Work Through For An Alumni Business Case
1. Investing In Relationships Is Good For Business
It is strange that for many organizations, alumni communities seem like a nice to have instead of a fundamental requirement, based on the recognition that investing in relationships is good for business.
Over the course of an employment relationship, companies spend millions of dollars on their employees in terms of recruitment, salary, benefits, birthday cupcakes, etc. However, when they walk out the door, these same employers tend to forget that they are sending a brand advocate out into the world.
These people go on to tell their new colleagues where they came from, and this story can either be bad or good. Their story can either be ‘I escaped,’ or ‘It was amazing; I think we could do something together, maybe I can get them in for a meeting?’. It is how fruitful new business avenues are formed.
2. Humans Are Not Transactional Objects
When you talk about employee engagement, it has to be clear that humans are not transactional objects.
Qualifying engagement and operational success can be difficult. People have to recognize that if you build an alumni community for the sole purpose of one transactional value, you’ve got a mailing list. You may well have a lot of people on it, but in the end, you’ve still just got a mailing list of people.
A dictatorship is not compatible with the notion of a community. It’s really important to start having conversations internally about what your priorities are, what your business values are, what you believe, and how your executive office thinks about making decisions.
On the other hand, it’s also important to focus on building empathy for ex-employees – what are their lives like, what challenges are they facing. It’s possible to find an overlap between what the business needs and that alumni need.
3. Leaving Is No Longer A Secret
2020 has changed the entire dynamic of alumni relations, taking it out of the basement and giving it a seat at the boardroom table. Companies like Uber started talking about launching an alumni program and helping their people who were being laid off in response to the reduced demand for e-hailing services during the lockdown.
Leaving is no longer a secret. Everyone knows employees will leave, so it’s time we start talking about it, and sooner rather than later.
For many organizations, an employee leaving can feel shameful, and they treat it like a bad childish breakup.
However, mature relationships can handle transitions, and the same applies to employment.
Businesses should shift this focus, and instead, take pride in the employee they’ve helped to develop and see it as a matter of pride when someone goes on to work somewhere else. After all, when the culture is right, an employee will be joining a new team with the training and development you provided them.
As such, an employee’s leaving experience should be treated with the same amount of respect as their joining experience.
4. The Things That Count Are Tough To Count
The main reason why it can be tough to present an alumni business case and sell C-suite executives on the notion of a community from an expense perspective, is that it takes a lot of time to build and nurture something sustainable, and many of the wins can be anecdotal.
However, certain metrics can be used to show that a community is growing in the right direction. For example, conversion rates from invitation to acceptance, acceptance to participation, participation over time, etc. can be used to optimize the experience and increase community growth.
At the same time, there should be a conversation about moving away from the notion of measuring ROI based on data from spreadsheets because this only shows a tiny part of the picture at best.
Instead of measuring for sentiment or chasing net promoter scores, discovery should be focussed on understanding people’s needs and where they’re feeling a sense of meaningful connection.
5. Zero Risk Is Not Really A Thing
Many businesses are very concerned about how an alumni platform will be used by ex-employees. What if they are angry? What if they say bad things?
The best way to address this is to explain that grievances are best voiced on a closed platform where it can be seen and heard by the right people, rather than on Facebook or Glassdoor. This is when you can reach out and make a difference, if only to one person.
Highlights and Notable Quotes From The Session
Retaining employees is not a right but a privilege that an employer has to earn every day. This includes setting them up for future success, wherever that might be.
Every alumni member is a human first. The thinking around alumni communities needs to move away from the money to thinking about the people. This is one of the main challenges you will encounter as you build your alumni business case.
If you are thinking about this as a transaction, you’re done. Leave the talk about ROI at the door. Start with a community drive based on social principles and enjoy the payoff when it occurs.
If you can relate to the challenges associated with building a business case that shows how an alumni program will impact a company’s bottom line, watch this one hour webinar. In it, you will learn how to approach the problem from a new perspective by focusing on the establishment of a vision statement and how it will impact your community at large.
James Sinclair, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of EnterpriseAlumni
Carrie Melissa Jones, Chief Strategist at Carrie Melissa Jones
Lisa Morris, Human Experience Of Work @ XPLOR