Corporate Alumni Success Starts and Ends With Empathy.

by Ken Washington in Partners
Published: 12th September 2018

TLDR; The delivery of a successful Corporate Alumni network starts and ends with empathy; Asking yourself and your community “what is true value and how can we deliver it?” The best communities are those that have active, authentic conversations with their Alumni so they understand how to serve their community and deliver that ‘true value’.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of your users and seeing the product and experience through their eyes. Empathy is recognizing you cannot make decisions or assumptions about a community without them involved in the conversation. Empathy is recognizing that this is not a Kevin Costner film about baseball… and if you just build it, they won’t just come. Your brand may be compelling as an employer but not compelling enough to command the free time of people who no longer work for you.

For alumni specifically, empathy is putting your alumni first. And knowing that by doing so, they will in turn serve your organization.

When upgrading a new customer from their legacy Alumni platform – or for those launching a network for the first time – we initially pose a few key questions to understand goals. These include “How may we serve your Alumni community?” and “What are your Alumni looking to achieve?” – only by understanding the value your Alumni expect can the community thrive.

Driven by our experience, our initial advice on these matters is very programmatic:

  • Respect the five generations of Alumni on your platform: Our AI driven platform ensures that each Alumni encounters a unique experience on the platform, making the content and opportunities relevant to them.
  • Offer professional compelling opportunities: Using alumni’s career arc plus historical and predictive data, our platform suggests jobs or gigs that are highly likely to peak their interest.
  • Keep innovating: Ensure a suite of benefits that are continuously evolving and in line with the ever-changing needs of the Alumni community.

This advice, in addition to our other critical pillars of Alumni Success we believe all fall under one key message we actively to our customers. Empathy. To all users.

  • As a software business, EnterpriseAlumni must demonstrate empathy in order to see the landscape and experience our product through the lens of our customers and Alumni end users. (Usability)
  • Our customers, as corporates, must demonstrate empathy to understand why an Alumni might choose to signup, engage and re-engage – and on a more sustainable basis, how to maintain a healthy relationship with their Alumni.

Don’t forget to be Human

Customers unanimously concur that empathy is a critical component to success but all too often, their next steps request includes a complex, generic project plan that some other vendor mentioned, that they think they want. A 98 step program to go live is not agile, is not human and does not bring success.

And if every alumni network launched with the same vanilla 12-week process to “go live”, if every organization employed the same approach and followed the same sequence of events, where would the competitive advantage be?

Where is the value you are offering by being part of your community vs someone else’s? How can you effectively drive engagement; first-time engagement and importantly, predict and ensure re-engagement? Where is the personalization and thought that you apply to other areas of your business with a generic set of steps?

Our competitive advantage and the reason our customers see rapid growth in their networks and the success of their platform is our ability to combine enterprise-grade processes with a human first approach.

We enable our customers to make their alumni platform “theirs”, reflecting their goals and objectives. Our platform is there to supports those objectives. No one want a network that’s “fine” or “good” and empathy is the ingredient that will make it “great”.

What does delivering a successful community mean and how do we measure it?

There are four pillars we build this on:

  1. Your alumni community are people who have left; perhaps under positive circumstances, perhaps not. But in all cases they walked out the door. Launching your network will not open a floodgate of amazing alumni clambering to be a part of it. In fact, the more senior, successful and experienced alumni are the hardest to capture.
  1. People grow and change after they leave your organization. A straight out of college employee will develop new skills, new relationships, grow and mature. Someone who left as a regrettable loss in the past may have competencies no longer relevant to your organization today. Point being, your people and your company objectives change.
  1. They likely don’t care that you opened an office in Paris. They’re don’t care that Frank is now a Global VP. They don’t care about your analysis of blockchain and its impact on the global financial market. They don’t care about the event in New York, the golf day with the CEO or the charity raffle. Unless they live in Paris, know Frank, are in fintech, will be in NYC, play golf. Everything is about relevance. You cannot treat your network like a concert where all people listen to the same song.
  1. The end user is the weakest link. They won’t complete their profile; won’t update their profile; won’t respond to an email asking them to update their profile. Because they don’t need to. They left and are fine without it. Everything is about reward-based profile enhancements and the use of progressive profiling to enable a user’s profile to stay up to date automatically.

, in turn, is becoming increasingly critical as we see some of the legacy vendors who have deployed to customers with say 100,000 members but only 7% of the data is accurate (or for many, no idea how much of the data is accurate). Progressive profiling must be automated otherwise the data is out of date the minute the user enters it. And this serves no one.

So what are the kick off KPI’s?

Empathy drives home the message that to deliver a successful alumni platform you have to put the alumni and their needs first. And to achieve success there, the first step is not to discuss implementation or a 12 week programmatic vanilla template pdf. It is a series of design thinking sessions asking how might we deliver value to our alumni? Because if every decision is rooted in the value to the alumni, then they will, in turn, deliver you and your organization reciprocal value.

When you put the alumni first, your perspective of KPI and what to track alters from a sole focus on tackling your organizational priorities to tracking the alumni priorities. So our initial KPIs focus on building a community, making the community aware of the alumni network’s existence and making them happy.

This, in turn, translates to growth of that network, NPS score improvement and social engagement, both indicators of positive sentiment.

Start an alumni program to align to your business objectives, but you can’t open with “hey, join our community because we want to recruit you and change the perception of our company.” Stick with your core business objectives but understand you can’t ask for anything until you have delivered something of true value.

And once you create a thriving, growing, happy community, you can achieve all your other goals and align more output to your business objectives.

Start somewhere, because with no community, nothing can be achieved.

Ken Washington is the Senior Product Manager for EnterpriseAlumni : Connect on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kenjwashington/

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