Alumni networks offer a bridge to an old source of new labor

Exploring the value of alumni networks: Gain insights from John Harrington Jr., Director of Product Marketing at Phenom, on how they reconnect with a proven source of fresh talent. Delve into the article now.

alumni networks

Most companies welcome the opportunity to rehire productive people, but organizations struggle in standing up an effective communications channel. Here are four steps when creating a network of alumni employees HR leaders should consider. 

One storyline that didn’t get the attention it should have during the wave of mass resignations in recent years was regret. How many of the employees who headed out the door and on to a new opportunity would come to question their decision? 

Plenty, as it turns out. One study found that as many as 80% of workers who walked away expressed remorse over the decision. Although they want to come back, many employers lack a structured way to engage with former workers, including retirees. 

Alumni networks, long popular with colleges and universities, offer businesses a channel to stay connected with those who no longer work for them, but are still interested in keeping a two-way dialogue going. 

Unfortunately, too few employers are making it easy for employees to boomerang back. Asked if they would be willing to rehire employees, 43% of employers said yes, but they have yet to rehire anyone. The study also found 27% of employers said yes and that they’ve already rehired at least one former employee. 

HR leaders focused on the bottom line should also consider the cost savings. 

Onboarding and training a new employee can be three to four times the position’s salary, according to one talent management and development company

Cost is greatly reduced when you onboard a former employee. This is particularly true for seasonal employees. Retailers that need to quickly ramp up for busy shopping seasons can use an alumni network to stay in touch throughout the year with already trained talent. 

In order to effectively engage with one-time employees, HR leaders should do everything they can to facilitate a connection to post company news, updates, events, photos and job openings – much like the way organizations communicate externally. 

It’s also a feather in the employment brand cap to let previous employees know they still matter, and to instill a sense of community and belonging with people who may have departed on their own terms or because of a situation beyond their control. 

As someone who has experienced the value of hiring former colleagues, I can attest to the fact that the potential is certainly there for organizations to tap into this vein provided they keep the following in mind:

  1. Think of how you’re already connecting with alumni 

What ways are your former employees finding out about updates, news and job opportunities at your organization? Take inventory of the types of communications and content that is being shared, and build from there. Try not to start from scratch. Some of you are probably doing a lot of this work already. You just might not be doing it in an organized way that’s geared toward targeting your audience with specific communications that go out on a defined cadence. 

  1. Assess the effectiveness of the network 

Just as you would keep tabs on any program, put a mechanism in place to assess if the network of former employees is growing and is being used effectively. 

Are you seeing good engagement? Are you seeing people sharing content? Are you seeing people raise their hand and signaling interest in applying for jobs that you’re making them aware of? 

Don’t just assume that flipping a switch and getting content in front of this base of individuals is going to make a difference without oversight or analysis. Think of it as being no different than the acquisition of talent through any other channel. 

One of the biggest mistakes HR leaders make is being overly ambitious and thinking that everyone who once worked for the organization will want to opt in. They won’t. So set realistic targets and objectives. Also continue to iterate and become more targeted and focused over time as the alumni network expands). 

  1. Coordinate across your HR team 

Make sure that talent acquisition (TA) and talent management (TM) are working closely with one another. This is a very unique opportunity for you. At first glance it might seem very TM-oriented because you have employees referring people to the business. But there’s also a TA aspect to it as well, as open requisitions are filled. 

TA and TM teams should have a coordinated strategy and approach to determine the degree to which the alumni network is going to contribute to your talent acquisition objectives. If those teams are in sync, then the next time the organization has voluntary resignations, layoffs, or you have to ramp up seasonal hiring, you’ll have a good pulse on some of the staffing changes that are coming. This allows you to also put proactive plans in place to ensure you’re using your network in a way that is in alignment with your talent objectives. 

  1. Help AI help you 

Every organization should leverage a platform that has employee profiles and candidates’ data about their skills, proficiencies, competencies, experience, and various other factors that go into a hiring decision.

That information can also be cross-referenced with the job description with associated attributes and figure out how good of a match that individual is for the job depending on how tightly aligned they are with the requirements. AI makes it easy to target the right people in your alumni network with the right type of promotional message for roles. 

A data-driven approach is key for any alumni network to work. Understand exactly what you’re seeing in the numbers and let them guide your decisions. Make sure you’re diversifying your approach for acquiring talent. AI can help there as well. 

I’ve seen too many instances where HR leaders don’t give former employees the attention they deserve. So my final thought would be to look at this group and treat them as potential future contributors to your business. In that regard, make sure you’re valuing their time and putting careful thought into how you’re communicating with them for the intended objective. 

The One That Got Away 

A common topic of conversation among friends in my fly fishing group is The One that Got Away. Turns out HR professionals lament something similar: The Employee Who Got Away. 

Nearly six million people left their jobs either of their own accord or involuntarily in April, according to the most recent federal statistics tracking labor market shifts. While that number is down slightly, that’s still a sizable chunk of the talent pool that’s on the move. 

That’s why a new approach and a new mindset is needed. Don’t think of former employees in the past tense. Think of them in the future tense and treat them like you would any pool of valuable talent.

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John Harrington

Jr., Director of Product Marketing at Phenom

John Harrington, Jr., is the director of Product Marketing at Phenom, a global HR tech company based in the greater Philadelphia area. He received his master’s of business administration from Villanova and holds a number of technical licenses and certifications. In his spare time, he enjoys tying flies and fishing.