In a tough hiring market, there is no such thing as a minor advantage—if it can give you an edge in finding top talent, it’s worth considering. It’s long been established that employee referral programs are a great addition to your overall recruitment strategy, but have you thought about starting a corporate alumni program?
Almost everything that makes a current employee a good referral option applies to former employees as well. Your alumni still understand a lot about your company and the type of person who will be successful there.
Just like your current employees, they network within your industry and know people with similar skills, training, and career interests. They’re already brand ambassadors for your company. They may even consider coming back for the right opportunity! Sometimes people aren’t as happy as they expected after taking a new position or returning home to parent young children—it’s scenarios like these that can lead to boomerang employment.
You should be careful with people who left involuntarily or on a particularly discordant note, but apart from those outliers, staying in touch with alumni is generally a good idea, especially as part of your overall recruiting strategy. From a few simple outreach steps to a formal program, the efforts can really pay off, which is why you will find alumni programs at many of the most successful companies. Let’s break down how to put your own program in place.
Gather the information
First, identify your target alumni. By combining previously gathered data with internal and external outreach, you can build your alumni list fairly easily. Make adding someone to the list a step in your separation process or exit interview going forward. Knowing the size and makeup of your group will help you determine what your alumni program should look like.
The next step is to build a connection with your alumni and extend your relationship beyond employment. A good relationship with your alumni has benefits beyond potential hiring referrals. Alumni can be an important champion of your firm and influence people’s opinions, positively or negatively, and those people could be potential customers, suppliers, business partners, or employees. You want to help ensure a positive message is part of any conversation about your company.
Best practices at a glance
How do you build a good program and develop strong relationships? Here are some best practices to consider implementing:
- Have an alumni section on your website
- Encourage alumni to follow you on social media
- Consider setting up specific alumni groups on appropriate platforms
- Distribute an alumni newsletter to communicate company news periodically (monthly, quarterly, etc.)
- Share existing content with them (e.g., studies, surveys, podcasts, info that you create for and routinely share with clients, etc.)
- Create content specifically for alumni
- Facilitate Continuing Professional Education or other training opportunities
- Host networking or social events
- Communicate specifically about job openings
- Target job posting communications to potential boomerangs when appropriate (e.g., senior/experienced positions)
- Consider extending your internal referral program or designing an alumni-specific one
It’s important to determine your program goals and act accordingly. Not every idea is applicable or useful to every situation. There are also costs associated with each of these ideas, and individual companies will need to determine what investment of time and resources is appropriate for them. Don’t forget, however, that there are also costs associated with traditional recruiting and hiring. When you consider those, it’s apparent how a good alumni program, with a specific referral component, can be a cost-effective solution and worth the investment.
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