LinkedIn Alumni & Why Lifelong Relationships Matter
February 21, 2023 at 11:00 AM EST

LinkedIn Alumni & Why Lifelong Relationships Matter

LinkedIn founder and chairman Reid Hoffman and author Chris Yeh join EnterpriseAlumni to discuss how to manage (and retain) your best employees.

Thank you to our guest speakers

Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn and The Alliance Co-Author

Chris Yeh, Co-Author of The Alliance

And our Host: Emma Sinclair MBE, CEO at EnterpriseAlumni

 

Five Things We Learned About LinkedIn Alumni And Why Lifelong Relationships Matter

Engagement has changed drastically over the past decade …

“No one does the same job for 50 years then retires. It’s never been easier for companies to build alumni.”

 Chris Yeh

Alumni need to be engaged …

“Alumni don’t need to know you’ve opened a new office in Madrid.”

Reid Hoffman

There’s a psychology to offboarding …

“We evaluate experience based on the peak and the end. Off-boarding is the worst possible way to end.”

Chris Yeh

Learn when to, and when not, to share …

“Organisations win by sharing and learning information. The challenge is producing that information. Take small steps that will make people think…. Oh, that’s interesting.”

Reid Hoffman

There’s a time to blitzscale

“Blitzscaling means to prioritise speed over efficiency for the sake of competitive strategy. In alumni, you don't have competitors trying to set up rival alumni organisations. But there may be a forcing function, a large layoff or an anniversary, when it makes sense to go faster.”

Chris Yeh

One for luck!

“LinkedIn cannot be specialised purely for the needs of people who run alumni networks. So it's a great to have to have both LinkedIn and EnterpriseAlumni.”

Chris Yeh 

Bonus shout-out!

“Alumni is often one person with a bunch of spreadsheets, who responsible for thousands and thousands of people! Alumni Leaders and Managers are entrepreneurs, juggling like crazy!”

Emma Sinclair 

Q&A

How has employee engagement changed the past decade?

Reid Hoffman: Companies have gotten very comfortable with boomerang hires – getting people to come back. Kevin Scott, CTO of Microsoft, would begin interviews by saying: “What's your next job?” Working at the same place for your entire career is now a fiction.

Chris Yeh: It has caused people to realise that the relationship between employees and companies is not what it once was. No one does the same job for 50 years then retires. It’s never been easier for companies to build alumni.

How do you put return on investment for alumni?

CY: You have to look at the different components. The first is boomerangs. Every employee that comes back saves money in terms of fees and recruiting. They will be culturally compatible because they already have the right working habits. Not only can alumni refer employees, they can refer customers too. The final component is network intelligence. Companies need to pick up on signals from the marketplace, for example, generative AI and ChatGPT. That can be challenging unless your company is an AI company. You need your employees and alumni to help reach out.

How is honesty important?

RH: One side benefit of LinkedIn is that people implicitly track how former employees are treated. Did you get treated well? Also ..Alumni don’t need to know you’ve opened a new office in Madrid. But universities will post alumni class notes, which can be interesting.

CY: Universities have excelled in this. I’m a graduate of Harvard Business School and the class notes are the primary way we stay in touch. Gatherings should be structured like reunions, connecting and bringing together people who were around at the same time.

What advice can you give for offboarding in this tricky time?

RH: Offboarding has a high impact on company image. Microsoft, were noted as human and generous, but at Google, some staff learned they were no longer employed when their log in credentials no longer worked. People want to work at places that value them. There has been less layoffs than hires over the past two years. You want to be able to offboard well.

CY: Offboarding is important because of what's known as the peak-end principle of psychology. We evaluate experience based on the peak and the end. Offboarding is the worst possible way to end. Airbnb did a very clever thing, which didn’t cost a thing. Besides the support and severance packages, they made everybody’s last day a Monday. Get everything wrapped up on the Friday, and on the Monday, it's all about spending time with each other. Allowing people to properly say goodbye paid huge dividends for Airbnb and is something every company could do well.

Is the ability of a firm to leverage the value of their alumni network intel dependent on the firm's internal maturity in freely sharing knowledge?

RH: Organisations learn that they win by sharing information. The challenge is producing that information to share. You need an iterative plan for the key elements, be they management consultancies, revenue perspectives or technology. Take small steps that will make people think: that’s interesting.

CY: Companies will tell their employees what they cannot share, but they rarely tell their employees what they can share, which can create uncertainty. Being explicit about what is shareable can be very effective so people know the safe areas to talk about.

Is it advisable to start with a pilot program before going for a global launch, or is it better to blitzscale?

RH: Pilots only make sense if you're going to learn something useful. If they are too small to get a positive signal, it makes sense to go larger scale. Any alumni network needs to have a critical mass and certain vibrancy.

CY: Blitzscaling is a competitive strategy. Blitzscaling means to prioritise speed over efficiency for the sake of competitive strategy. In alumni, you don't have competitors trying to set up other alumni organisations for your company. But there may be a forcing function, a large layoff or an anniversary, when it may make sense to go faster.

What is the size of an alumni community that demonstrates critical mass or vibrancy?

CY: It’s not necessarily a matter of size. When you build your alumni community, the signal of critical mass or vibrancy is that the alumni are connecting with each other. Does your mailing list result in regular conversations? If it does, it's working. If it doesn’t, you don't have a community.

RH: You need to get to the point like it’s running like an engine. The size depends on the size of the network. In some places, you’ll have a community in 20. In others, you need a community of 1000s.

Should current employees be invited to be part of the alumni program? 

RH: You want to have connectivity between your alumni and your employees but make the dynamic of the interaction work wells with clear goals. So yes, at LinkedIn, we’ll invite employees to be part of the alumni program.

How do you feel when you clocked EnterpriseAlumni as a software alumni company, given that you’re both such big advocates for alumni?

RH: Software is now the medium by which we organise our world. Back in the 90s, there were only a few ways that companies could connect to alumni. For examples, university would publish magazines. Software like LinkedIn totally changed the landscape.

CY: Horizontal solutions are great where there's a strong set of network effects. LinkedIn is people’s default professional identity online. But it’s not a vertical solution. LinkedIn is as great for alumni as it is for non-alumni, and cannot be specialised purely for the needs of people who run alumni networks. So it's a great to have to have both LinkedIn and EnterpriseAlumni. 

What’s next?

CY: So much has changed since the pandemic, there's so many things. One of the most interesting ones is the impact of AI. I'm really excited that AI may be able to amplify the human connection of managers and employees.

RH: The reshuffle from the pandemic has amplified the importance of alumni networks. Silicon Valley has spreading into almost every industry, because we now live in such a networked world.

Part of the EnterpriseAlumni Leadership Webinar Series, hear from Corporate Alumni Leaders, Community Professionals and Industry Experts sharing strategy, insights and experience for organizations focused on maintaining and maximizing relationships with alumni – the people that matter.

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