by Adam Zouak and Chris Izquierdo

Over the years, I found there were two types of companies. Those that on my last day, we said our goodbyes, we shook hands (#OldDays), and I went forward to a new adventure as did the organization. The crossing of our paths was done. Then there are the other types of organizations, the ones who made a point of saying, “Hey, you are family now. And while you may be moving out, we want you to still be a part of what makes us great.”

While it’s no surprise that large companies are doing this, can a mid-size or smaller organization do it? Is it worth it? Let’s have a look.

The Value

There are a number of articles on the Internet that talk about the value of such programs from different perspectives. Here are the ones that I see as the most universal and valuable:

  1. Connections
  2. Community
  3. Referrals & Returns
  4. Feedback

Connections

Years ago, I remember having a chat with a member of my team who had revealed to me that she was leaving. She was surprised that I was happy for her, and what’s more, that I was willing to be a reference. She had done amazing things for our team. Unfortunately, because of the organization I was with at the time, I had no opportunities that would allow her to continue to develop anytime soon. Rather than be the type of boss that caps someone’s growth, after trying everything I could, I was the leader who took the long view. She left, and that’s all that I heard from her for a while.

About two years later, I got an email asking if my company would like to be added to a list of potential vendors for an RFP. We weren’t on the initial list, but her new boss liked what she had to say about us, and so we were being invited. That is the value of connections that these people who were once working with you every day continue to open doors.

Every single person who leaves your organization is a network that is going to continue to grow. If you’re on their mind, they will continue to find ways to bring opportunities to you.

Community

The more people you have in your alumni network, the more value it brings to everyone in the network. Having a forum where people could ask others in your alumni network for advice or a helping hand will create goodwill toward your organization.

Referrals and Returns

Finding good people is hard, so why not leverage an active network for potential candidates and referrals? Think of alumni Jane, formerly from engineering, now at another company. She has a fantastic candidate that she was about to hire, but there’s a sudden hiring freeze. She sees a similar job at your organization and immediately reaches out.

“This person is too good to let go back into the wild. You have to interview them,” she says. She raves about the company to the candidate, getting them excited, and they ace the interviews. Jane’s happy, the candidate’s happy, and your org is happy. It’s a win for everyone.

Another reason to be sharing open positions with your Alumni network is the possibility that one of them may realize it’s exactly what they’re looking for. Jane’s grown since she left the company and seems stuck at the senior director level of engineering at her company. She sees a VP position open up and thinks of the candidate she referred over, the one didn’t let get away. She decides that maybe it’s time to return, and puts her hat in the ring for the VP job. Part of it can’t believe she’s returning to where she had started her career, while the other part relishes the opportunity to come home.

Individuals like Jane are extremely valuable because they already have proven worth, and their mean-time-to-value is going to be low because they already know the ins and outs (though they may need some training to recognize what’s changed).

Feedback

Where do we turn when we want advice about a relationship? We turn to our closest friends, which sometimes includes exes. Who knows you better than someone who was in a relationship with you, and who with the benefit of a few years of distance, now has a unique perspective.

Having alumni in your communication ecosystem can be a valuable resource to get feedback on policy or other changes, prior to putting them in place.

So HOW do we do this without breaking the bank of effort and money?

It’s one thing when an organization is massive. Some of them spin off entirely new organizations just to manage their alumni network. But what about smaller companies? Well, this is where it’s even more important than ever to have a proper communication platform.

At the very least, your platform should do the following:

  1. Allow a way to group alumni into one or more groups (a.k.a audiences) for easy management
  2. Allow you to post updates to those audiences as easily as posting internally
  3. Allow you to reach alumni across multiple channels (e.g. a mobile app and email newsletter)
  4. Allow you to collect analytics on how that program is performing. Are people reading your information? Are they commenting and engaging?
  5. Allow social logins for the alumni users. Instead of requiring IT to allow the departing users to retain an Active Directory account, allow the alumni users to use a Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, or other social media account. This removes the burden from IT and allows the alumni user to use an account they already know the password to.

A proper communications system should be able to provide all of this for a ‘no-brainer’ cost. A single referral alone a year could potentially cover the cost for managing all of the alumni, plus the effort to send them posts.

Step 1 – Define a Simple Program

Don’t try to do everything right out of the gate. Start small and build. Here are a few basic points:

  • Identify a schedule and a few topics that you would like to post on.
  • Have HR amend their exit interview process so that they consent to email alumni and advertise the program or that it’s ‘coming soon’
  • Make sure that if IT needs to play a role, because of the system being used, that they understand and agree to it upfront.

Step 2 – Reach Out to Recent Alumni

Work with HR and colleagues to identify people who left on good terms recently and who deserve a personal invite. Get them as early adopters and get their feedback. Make them part of the program and bringing it to life, rather than just being an audience to be broadcast at.

Step 3 – Start Humble, Stay Strong

It’s easy to start something with a flourish and then let it die. What you want instead is to start and maintain an even rhythm. Post content that solicits engagement from your alumni audience and consider getting them to submit posts to you. Create 5 or 6 posts before launching, so that you have a running start.

What are you waiting for? Well…

There are many things, particularly in corporate life, where we say “Yes, that’s a good idea” and then shelve it with a “When I have time” or “At some point.”

Alumni are an available resource who walk away with warm feelings about your organization that if left unattended, will go cold, transforming from family to strangers. All we’re saying is that making them feel like family may be a lot easier, and cheaper, than you think.

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Considering a new communications platform like Sparrow can feel like a daunting task, but it shouldn’t. We are here to support you through your decision making journey, and when you’re ready, are able to quickly and easily put in our communication system, unifying your channels and enabling you to take on the world. At Sparrow, we believe that corporate communications can be transformative. Sparrow – Built for Communicators. Book a conversation with us today.