Did you know that American employees only tend to stay with an organization for approximately five years before they decide to move on to “greener pastures?” In fact, a record 48 million U.S. workers quit their jobs last year - That’s a lot of turnovers, but it’s simply uncommon for workers to remain with one organization for the entirety of their careers.
But what if every time an employee quits, it was the beginning of a new relationship and not just another severed connection?
The truth is that most organizations have consistently mishandled and grossly undervalued the resignation (offboarding) process. This is beginning to change with the rapid adoption of company alumni groups – a strategic organizational effort to remain connected and engaged with former employees after they’ve moved on.
While modern recruitment technologies like applicant tracking systems (ATS) will continue to be widely adopted to help organizations navigate the challenges of this volatile job market, organizations are discovering how alumni networks, when properly maintained, can become absolute goldmines in terms of talent acquisition and recruitment.
These alumni groups offer a wide array of benefits to both former employees and to the company hosting the alumni network (as we’re about to show you), but they’re notoriously effective for attracting former employees back into the fold. Also referred to as “boomerang” employees, it’s one of the perks of keeping former employees interested in your organization, and it can save you as much as 50% on routine hiring and training costs per new hire.
What is a Company Alumni Group?
Employee turnover is a part of every business, but it doesn’t mean we have to sever ties with every departing employee. With an alumni group, organizations can continue to connect with former employees, and it can be done without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money on recruitment technology. That’s because most alumni groups are simply online forums where organizations host virtual events and post updates using dedicated websites and social media, including sites like LinkedIn.
Organizations use their alumni groups to keep former employees interested by facilitating online discussions that elicit feedback and incubate conversations among former (and current) employees. For example, eBay has been known to host virtual social events for its alumni to encourage feedback on the company’s strategies.
The fact is that these alumni groups do much more than keep organizations engaged and connected with their former employees. Over time, alumni groups grow to become legions of professionals who will likely remain in the same industry and become more valuable to an organization as new customers and suppliers – all of them potentially serving as ambassadors that will promote an organization’s brand … free of charge.
But it’s the job market where organizations can gain the most from cultivating a strong alumni group. When your alumni members are on social media promoting your organization as a great place to work, it can be very persuasive to both active and passive job seekers alike.
However, before building an alumni group, a prudent step would be to reassess your offboarding process first.
The Offboarding Process and Company Alumni Groups
With the popularity of social media, employees are going online in greater numbers to voice their opinions about their (former) employers’ offboarding process. The way an organization handles employees who leave will communicate all too eloquently whether that organization truly lives up to the standards and values that it claims to. The outcome of an organization’s offboarding process will likely find its way onto social media, where passive and active job seekers are hanging out in droves, particularly if it’s a negative experience.
When employees decide to resign, organizations should commend them for their contributions and offer some level of support through their transition process – this is where an alumni group can serve to keep a former employee interested in staying connected. While someone may have decided to quit by becoming a member of your alumni network, it is the continuation of an existing relationship rather than the end of one.
Here’s an example of a language that can be used when inviting a departing worker to consider your alumni group:
“We certainly don’t want you to leave and would prefer not to lose you. However, we understand why you need to go. Please know that our company supports you, and you should consider yourself a member of our alumni group. If – and when – you decide to return, there’s always a place for you here at our company.”
An organization’s alumni group is often administered in much the same way that a university supports former students: assistance with transition to a new role, setting them up for future success and staying in touch through the company alumni network. In fact, alumni groups can be quite candid in their institution of a ‘boomerang’ program that lets former employees know that they are appreciated for their efforts and there is always a place for them to return to.
Workers who have a positive offboarding experience are almost three times more likely to recommend that organization to potential job prospects than those who have a negative or even neutral experience. Finally, Glassdoor ratings are, on average, 15% higher for organizations that offer a positive offboarding experience.
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How Company Alumni Groups Are Used to Engage Former Employees
Surprisingly, a recent Gallup study revealed that fewer than one out of every ten former employees feel like they’re part of their former employer’s alumni network. The message in that statistic: once an alumni group is established for the first time, there needs to be consistent effort applied over time to engage with alumni members to keep them interested. This is achieved by posting useful information and interactive content that benefits the members as much as the organization.
It will be time well-invested. Once organizations achieve that desired level of engagement, alumni essentially become natural ambassadors for their former organization with connections to potential job candidates. Remember, former employees are special in that they have a unique ability to pre-qualify candidates by applying their own knowledge of an organization’s culture and can do a preliminary assessment of their own to determine a potential fit for the organization before making the referral.
Here are the top ways organizations are staying engaged with and maintaining the interest of their alumni group members:
- Offer cash rewards to alumni for successful job referrals
- Initiate online forums to encourage members to share their thoughts and opinions
- Give alums first dibs on paid project-based work and paid mentoring opportunities
- Host events to create social connections with reunions and “happy hours”
- Offer employee-only (and former employee) discounts on products and services
- Setup a “boomerang” program where new job opportunities are initially offered to former alumni
We’ll say it again - alumni groups are successful only because the benefits of membership are mutual. After an employee leaves an organization, there’s no obligation on their part to maintain the relationship with their former employer. If an alumni group provides few incentives for membership, their effectiveness, especially as a recruitment resource, will be significantly limited.
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How to Build a Company Alumni Group
Your average Fortune 500 company pockets an extra $12 million a year just by recruiting from its alumni pool. That’s a compelling enough reason for any sized organization to consider setting up an alumni network of their own. However, like a fall harvest, setting up a successful alumni group for your organization requires a steady, long-term investment of time and effort to make it work.
Here are the key steps involved:
- Evaluate your offboarding process; are you leaving your departing workers with the feeling that you want the relationship to continue?
- Determine your goals and what incentives you will use in attracting and retaining your alumni
- Select a platform and build your alumni page; LinkedIn and Facebook both offer free resources
- Reach out and invite your target alums; go through your resume database software and be aggressive in marketing the new alumni group
- Have a designated resource to post useful content on a consistent basis
- Track membership and progress; encourage feedback from your alumni members
Alumni networks are very effective in maximizing the value of the relationships that an organization builds with existing and former employees by providing them with the means to stay consistently connected and engaged with these workers. By establishing an online alumni group, your organization is taking the essential “next step” in a marketplace where lifelong employment may not be the norm, but experiencing the benefits of long-term relationships can be.
While alumni networks can help organizations cast a wider net in their search for talent, candidates still have more control over the talent acquisition process than ever before.
Organizations need powerful recruitment technologies to locate and build relationships with the market’s best talent, and Manatal’s recruitment management solutions can overcome these challenges. Our SaaS-based ATS platform is a recruitment management platform that organizations across the globe rely upon daily to accelerate and optimize their talent acquisition and hiring strategies.
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