Alumni Leadership Series: Engaging Corporate Alumni As Part Of Business Recovery

by Alumni Content in Video   |    Last Edited: 10th January 2022

In this episode of the Corporate Alumni Leaders Series, EnterpriseAlumni opens the floor to panelists Michael J Destefano, the Global Alumni Leader at EY, and Andrea Legnani, the Global Head of Alumni Relations at Citi. 

In an open and fast-paced conversation with the two expert guests who collectively lead a community of 1.8 million people, James explores the practical steps that Alumni Leaders and Talent Acquisition Professionals can take to prepare, engage, and ultimately activate this critical pool of talent as part of business recovery for COVID-19. 

While we are faced with a crisis and trust that everyone is staying safe, the real key for this conversation is that “every storm does run out water”. Recovery will be quick, it will be massive, and it will be earth-shaking. A real question is how will your alumni program and you as an individual be involved in the rebuild and the conversation about recovery? 

A little more than 300 representatives from Fortune 100 companies, smaller organizations, and universities joined us live to listen in on the conversation, reflecting just how important it is to maintain relationships with the alumni community that companies have invested so much time and money into.

The Intentions Of The Conversation Were Threefold

1. Identify key business leavers. Alumni can deliver value into an organization, but who are the candidates to explore this with, what does the value look like, and where is the ROI? We explore why both guests have an alumni program. 

2. Talk about how alumni teams and you as an individual can come out of this pandemic stronger. More specifically, how to ensure that alumni is having its moment to assist organizations throughout the pandemic and that you are part of this evolution. It’s the exact time when you should be rethinking your alumni strategy or accelerating transformation.

3. Discuss how to give alumni a seat at the table. Alumni programs are often side projects in an organization and not a core business service. This crisis has opened up opportunities to leverage the army of people you have at the ready, who can impact your organization, and include them in the conversation about business recovery.

Highlights and Notable Quotes From The Session

“The upside of a crisis is innovation.” Now is the chance for organizations with existing programs to go back to the whiteboard and understand their purpose and engagement. For new programs, it’s time to get the wheels moving and understand what it takes to succeed.

“Move your alumni program from an art to a science.” Forget the idea that an alumni program is a nice to have. It’s an opportunity for business, an opportunity for re-hiring, and an opportunity to retain access to a qualified panel of invested experts including retirees. There’s real ROI to be seen when this initiative is geared into a company’s DNA. 

“Relationships are the key to our success.” Keep your alumni close, they are special to you. At any time when trying to chase new business, trying to meet somebody, trying to break into a market, it’s all about who you know. Accessing your program, you know where your alumni are, and how to engage them where they are. It’s this impactful information that you can use to leverage relationships to provide support to your organization as well as your supply chain, throughout recovery.

5 Key Takeaways To Work Through

Whether you are thinking of initiating a large global program, a small regional project, or revamp your existing Alumni efforts, here are the five highlights from the session:

1. Have The Courage to start something now and forget about the hierarchy in your organization. Reach out to someone internal, pitch an executive sponsor, walk into your talent or marketing teams offering your “Alumni Army” to accelerate initiatives or even try a new strategy. Let them know what you have got and how you can help them.

Now is the time to connect with people across your organization about the program and its value. 

2. Build The Business Case to gain internal budget and buy-in. We heard that 10% of Citi employees are boomerangs with an average cost saving of between $50 and $75,000 per hire. EY has about 17% of its workforce coming from its Alumni pool. The business case and data is overwhelmingly in your favor. “Data is king.”

Frame it as an investment and stakeholders will be looking for ROI. Frame it as a cost, and they will want to know how to lower it. Aim for ROI. 

3. Showcase Individual Use Cases to bring authenticity and context to your program. Michael talks about an ex-EY tax accountant who is now on the board of Coca-Cola, and Andrea mentions Citi’s Alumni now serving in the public sector. “Imagine if we had maintained a better relationship.” 

Humanize the conversation with specific people or deals connected to your Alumni. 

4. Executive Sponsor is essential to secure budget, resources, and advocate for the program at the highest level, helping to cut through red tape and showcasing its importance. Michael mentioned that he leveraged senior alumni to set up an organizational advisory panel which current senior management had no option but to throw their weight and resources behind.

Now is the time to e-mail a senior executive with your strategy and ask for their support.

5. Micro Communities are the way forward. It is better to have 6 people around a table, on a call, or discussing a topic with 100% engagement than trying to create a “one size fits all” strategy. It’s better to serve one person with value and then scale it from there.

Listen to the diversity of opinion across your communities to develop programming they want (or need).


Michael J Destefano, EY

Andrea Legnani, Citi

You can find more research and insights on alumni programs here.