An HR practice which has remained under the radar for years is finally gaining the recognition it deserves and one Silicon Valley CEO says every organization should take notice.
“Absolutely every company should have their own corporate alumni program,” says Lee Caraher, CEO of Double Forte and author of ‘The Boomerang Principle.’
“There are lots of alumni groups on LinkedIn, this is not what I’m talking about,” she continues. “I’m talking about a company-directed alumni program.”
According to Caraher, some organizations have operated sophisticated alumni programs for years but in general, it’s a vastly overlooked opportunity.
“The big consulting firms – McKinsey, Deloitte
– they all have alumni programs and it’s part of their business model to keep people close so those people are encouraged to return as clients or future employees,” she explains.
However, Caraher says the benefits go far beyond boomerang employees and winning over clients.
“Every business – even if they don’t rehire anybody, even if they don’t become clients – can benefit from having an alumni program because it’s creating advocates in the marketplace,” she tells HRM.
“The larger your cohort of advocates and admirers is in the marketplace, the better off you are and if former employees can be that first line of defence, you will have a strategic advantage over anybody,” says Caraher. “It’s going to be the next big thing in HR for sure.”
Smaller employers or organizations with no experience in alumni programs shouldn’t be put off – according to Caraher, they can be implemented in any size company and significant progress can be made fairly quickly.
“You don’t have to have a lot of money and you don’t have to have a lot of people – you can start an alumni program today which can be very valuable for you and your people.”
For small companies, Caraher says an alumni program could consist of a private Facebook
group, a regular email and a couple of opportunities to meet every year. Coupons, perks and even recruitment incentives can also be part of the program.
“When former employees refer someone who we hire, we send those people a cheque,” says Caraher. “It’s the same cheque we give current employees because anytime you’re shortening recruitment by having someone be your advocate in the world, you should pay that person their weight in gold.”
For larger organizations, the opportunities are endless and can even end up being seen as a major perk by potential new employees.
“McKinsey really operates the gold standard of the corporate alumni programs – they have their own private network, they have training that goes on in this private network, they share all of their information – in fact, they have one person in every office dedicated to the alumni program,” she tells HRM.
“Microsoft too, it’s always been good to be from Microsoft but now with the alumni program, they say it’s invaluable.”
For organizations that are considering implementing a corporate alumni program, Caraher says there are some relatively simple first steps that anyone can take.
“Depending on how big your company is and how many years you’ve been in business – start by identifying the top 100 people who left your company in the last 10 years,” she advises.
“It might take a while to find out where all of these people are but the good news todays is that with social media and LinkedIn, it’s much easier to find them that it once was.”