April 28, 2021 at 11:00 AM ET

Retail Spotlight: Engaging Alumni: Our People Are Our Brand

How Harrods & Chalhoub Group include Alumni as part of the employee experience to extend their brand, talent and transformation programs.

Leading retailers Harrods and Chalhoub Group include their retail alumni in the employee experience. In this webinar, we give the spotlight to retail to find out how these organizations are extending their brand, talent, and transformation programs to this critical component of their workforce.  

As renowned luxury brand names with considerable workforces to manage, both businesses have approached the idea of investing in an employee who’s leaving and may never come back from a different angle. 

In terms of employee tenure, typically, retail is either known to be high churn, or you’ve been there for your entire career. So, what steps are brands taking to shake this mindset and get to a space where investing in alumni can reap rewards for the workforce and company?

Guest Speakers:

Nicola Beck is Head of Talent Acquisition for the Chalhoub Group based in Dubai. She regularly engages with alumni from a recruitment perspective to identify boomerang employees for the business. 

Iyad Rahme, Head of Digital HR, joins Nicola from the Chalhoub Group. He is responsible for scouting for digital platforms and is subsequently working closely with Nicola on their alumni project. 

Finally, we have Max Barnard, who is in Employee Experience and Employer Branding at Harrods in London. His job is to develop a set of employee values and really carry it through to become part of the business identity.

Retail Alumni As Part Of The Employee Experience: Key Takeaways To Work Through

1. The Conversation Around Employee Value Is Evolving

Often, the question of whether or not to invest in retail employees centers around how long they have worked for a business. 

But, Max suggests that tenure shouldn’t be the only factor when measuring an employee’s worth. It’s equally possible for someone to have a huge impact in a short space of time. 

People who can enter the scene and create genuine customer experiences that have never been done before are the ones you want to keep in touch with and invite back. And it doesn’t have to be within the context of full-time employment; it can be seasonal or part-time, depending on the requirements at hand.

Alumni programs are a way to demonstrate the organization’s culture and people’s promises, helping it maintain ties with the departing workforce.

2. Alumni Exist. Businesses Should Own Their Programs

Nicola mentions that it doesn’t matter if employees have been with you for a week or several years. When they leave, they exist out there whether or not you have a platform or program to engage them on. 

Owning your program and staying connected gives these people a way back to the organization. It also helps them keep in touch with what’s happening internally and maintain a connection to something that has been important to them for a long time. 

Essentially, the program can be a way to give back and uphold an element of family within the workforce. 

There is also the aspect of having control over the narrative around your employer branding when you own your program. Max talks about how, historically, there’s been this fear of alumni as they’re this hidden Facebook group or they’re leaving negative responses on Glassdoor. 

However, it’s possible to change this with an alumni program. Community managers are now in a position to spin a positive light on the business. Not only can they monitor and respond to negative PR, but they can also educate the leadership team. 

All of a sudden, there’s this bank of information about ex-employees you didn’t previously have access to. You can single out the positive stories and make a list of who’s coming back.

3. Former Employees Are A Source Of Business Insight

As well as being brand ambassadors, retail alumni also have unique insight into the products you sell and overall customer experience. The trick is not only to broadcast; it’s actually to listen. 

Iyad mentions that Chalhoub involves their communities in customer experience hackathons. The exercises involve a lot of brainstorming about new products or brand development, which they consider to be a valuable learning experience. 

Similarly, Max speaks about an upcoming campaign that will involve employees and alumni. The business will reach out to ask them what they think the company can do differently and to get their ideas for innovation.

4. Amplify Alumni Successes and Attract Qualified Talent

Retail businesses should celebrate their alumni who go on to do great things. Yes, it’s not with your company, but, ultimately, it was a stepping stone for the person to get there.

What this fact (authentically) says to the world is, ‘this organization is a great place to work. Look what happened to this person after they left… maybe there are the same types of opportunities there for me too.’

Highlights and Notable Quotes From The Session 

Alumni is a really important step in the career journey; just as important as joining a business is how a person exits it.

In the words of Josh Bersin, the employee experience doesn’t end at the exit interview. Alumni are still employees, as long as they want to remain part of the family.

Arm alumni with the knowledge to protect you.

This is something Coca-Cola once said, which is critical in protecting your brand image online. Unfortunately, the internet is a breeding space for misconstrued stories, untruths, and hearsay. But, arm your alumni with the right knowledge and step in to correct the narrative, and you can shift the conversation in your favor. 

To capitalize on your customer (or alumni) experience, you need a great employee experience.

In retail, it’s rarely enough to just be a good brand. You’re going to have to work on providing an outstanding employee experience, which, in turn, is reflected in customer and alumni service.

Nowadays, retailers have powerful digital tools to survey and measure both employee and customer experience. Do the survey, take action on the results, and then show employees and customers (we include alumni in this) precisely what you’re doing with the information.


Max Barnard, Employee Experience & Employer Branding at Harrods

Nicola Beck, Head Of Talent Acquisition at Chalhoub Group

Iyad Rahme, Head Of Digital HR at Chalhoub Group

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