Webinar Recap: A Decade of Alumni with DLA Piper and PWCby Alumni Content in Alumni Leaders Podcast, Video | Last Edited: 28th July 2022
Thank you to our guest speakers: Charles Severs, Managing Director, APAC / MEA at DLA Piper; Sallie Hinson, Global and US Alumni Network Senior Manager at PwC; Emma Sinclair MBE, CEO at EnterpriseAlumni.
Five Things We Learned About 10 Years of Alumni at PwC and DLA Piper…
Alumni feedback is crucial …
“The feedback from alumni is always the same. They want to feel connected through networking events with like-minded people. They want their career trajectory celebrated, they want to be inspired and they want to be up-levelled …”
Alumni needs to cover all your regions …
“An alumni program needs to take the views of everyone. It’s a job to be relevant and contextualised for everybody. But if you’re not going to do that, you’re not doing it properly …”
Alumni are your brand ambassadors …
“Alumni are your best brand ambassadors. There’s nothing more powerful than 1000s of alumni talking about what you do and how you do it …”
Your alumni program needs to be better than your competitors …
“Our employees jump between the big four. So why make sure we ask: what does the PwC alumni program offer that the Deloitte, KPMG or or E&Y programs don’t …?”
Boomerang hires are golden …
“We take special pride with our boomerang hires. Employees leave for a reason, some positive and some of negative, so you have to demonstrate how you’ve adapted. There’s no better feeling in the corporate world when an employee returns and say: ‘I’m delighted to be back, you really have changed’.”
“In alumni, you can’t be everything to everybody!”
Has building an alumni community always been important?
Charles: Law is about relationships. You build relationships internally and externally, so you should only let them go at your peril. We’ve fought hard to engage with people who leave us, but we’re never complacent. It’s always about how we can be better tomorrow.
How do you ensure value to your alumni when you’re such a large organization?
Sallie: The feedback from alumni is always the same. They want to feel connected through networking events with like-minded people. They want their career trajectory celebrated, they want to be inspired and they want to be up-leveled. So the key is building programs around alumni’s needs.
What support do you have with managing alumni over so many different regions?
Charles: You can’t make an alumni program work unless you take the views of everyone. DLA Piper is a global law firm – we have 100s of business professionals, non-lawyers, in-house lawyers and private-lawyers – so it’s a job to be relevant and contextualized for everybody. But if you’re not going to do that, you’re not doing it properly.
What can alumni do for you?
Charles: The business of law is about building relationships and networks. Alumni are our best brand ambassadors. There’s nothing more powerful than 1000s of alumni talking about what you do and how you do it.
How do you ensure your alumni are getting a good experience?
Sallie: By asking: what does PwC deliver that isn’t available anywhere else? Our people jump between the big four. So what does the PwC alumni program offer that the Deloitte, KPMG or or Ernst & Young programs don’t?
How do you pick your audiences?
Charles: We’re a global law firm. People move within the organization, so we have an umbrella platform to make it relevant and exciting for alumni wherever they are.
What are your goals are for your alumni program this year?
Sallie: We want to make it easier for alumni to know what’s happening at PwC. So that means keeping up with the alumni program perspective and making them part of your purpose. For boomerang hires, it’s important to say: this is not the PwC you left, here’s why it’s changed, and here’s why you should come back.
Charles: We take special pride with our boomerang hires. Employees left for a reason, some positive and some of negative, so you have to demonstrate how you’ve adapted. There’s no better feeling in the corporate world when an employee returns and say: “I’m delighted to be back, you really have changed.”
When do employees become alumni?
Charles: I see no reason not to include everybody. We all look to the past through rose-tinted spectacles. So why would you limit that? You should become alumni the moment you join the company.
Sallie: At PwC, we technically define alumni if they’ve been with the firm six months and left either voluntary or involuntary on good terms. 10 years ago, they had to have been here a year, it had to be a voluntary departure and they had to also not be going to competitor. So it’s much more inclusive today.
How large are your alumni teams and what structure works best for running program effectively?
Charles: We are – as I imagine most professional services firms – pretty lean. We’re talking less than 10 people in offices across the world, and that won’t be their only role.
Sallie: In the old days I was a one-woman show. For a long time, it was a team of two and a half. Now we’re up to four and a half.
How did DLA Piper decide who should be your sponsor?
Sallie: I wrote up the job description and then shopped that around. With our partner sponsor, we’ve moved 10 times faster. So I highly recommend finding that person, because it’s much easier when you have someone advocating at the top.
How are you adapting for the changing demographics of Gen Z and millennials in the workforce?
Charles: We are constantly reminded of the needs and expectations of different generations. Every aspect has to cater, from hybrid working to alumni.
What are metrics are important when customizing your program?
Sallie: We look across recruiting, boomerang hires, opt-in rates, career support and event engagement. For emails, we look at click-through and open rates. We’ve started testing engaged alumni versus the unengaged, to see how we can engage the unengaged, both firm-wide and across socials.
Charles: The value of data is huge, but it’s much harder working out how to use that data in order to change. So that’s our current focus: to make sure we correctly analyze the data to drive change and benefit the program.
What are your future plans?
Sallie: To give a customized experience to our alumni based on level and location, and to identify people who are important but not necessarily at C-suite level.
Charles: We need to deliver a new technology platform to better analyze our data. Secondly, there is absolutely a need to meet, greet and collaborate locally with people they potentially haven’t seen for years.
Sallie: Work has changed so quickly since the pandemic, with more people going virtual and no longer coming into the office five days a week. So we’re no longer building the same types of relationships that we did a few years ago. So what is the impact of that shift on an alumni program? And how do we need to adjust based on what the workplace looks like today? That what’s keeping me up at night!
Charles Severs, Managing Director, APAC / MEA at DLA Piper
Sallie Hinson, Global and US Alumni Network Senior Manager at PwC
Emma Sinclair MBE, CEO at EnterpriseAlumni