Most employers see tremendous value in staying cozy with ex-employees. It can be difficult to measure the ROI of formal corporate alumni programs, but when you ask large firms why they invest, they tend to cite a few common goals:
- Increased rehire rate (“You’re always welcome back!”)
- More candidate referrals (“Talent breeds talent.”)
- Boosted customer referrals (“Employees recommend our products.”)
- Fresh business insights (“We’d love your outside perspective.”)
- Brand advocacy (“from our stock price to our talent brand, let’s stay friends.”)
While the benefits of engaging (and re-engaging!) corporate alumni may be clear, most prestigious organizations struggle to do so. After all, who has time for their old employer? Even your most loyal employees tend to lose touch once they leave, unless of course you find a way to continuously provide value. Here are ways to keep your community of corporate alumni engaged and in your corner, years (decades?) after they’ve left your ranks.
How to maximize corporate alumni community engagement
- Collect feedback often
Where a lot of corporate alumni communities go wrong is by assuming member preferences. Whether it’s around the frequency and cadence of communication, style and themes of networking events, referral incentives, or general topics of interest, it’s better to ask your community directly rather than assume what they want from your corporate alumni experience. Before you offer anything new, make sure to issue a survey to get a sense of how it will be received. An ideal place to start collecting this feedback is during exit interviews, but your process for feedback collection should be far from one-and-done. Rather than sending out a monster questionnaire once or twice a year, experiment with shorter, more regular surveys. The responses may surprise you, and often take alumni programs in a completely new directions.
- Facilitate one-to-one conversation
Another area where corporate alumni programs can typically improve is on their promise to facilitate member-to-member networking. It’s not enough to invite all your alumni to a Facebook or LinkedIn group, send out weekly posts, and expect anyone to start meaningful conversations. Nor will anyone pay attention to your mass emails beyond the first few sends. No matter how well you know your audience and cater to their interests, these one-to-many communications are ill-fated from the start. The most engaged corporate alumni programs *I’ve seen* offer dynamic member directories and centralized instant messaging that make it easy for alumni to find and connect with their most relevant colleagues. Theoretically this is all possible on social media, but in practice there’s too much friction and noise for alumni to actually connect with others. Thus a key component to facilitating alumni networking is segmenting your massive alumni community into smaller, more personally relevant groups. Every organization needs to define subgroups in a way that makes the most sense to its alumni, but generally firms create buzzing enclaves by region, functional expertise, professional interest, past product areas, and other niches with a passionate following. Making it easy for alumni to find “their people” within your larger network is critical to fostering connection.
- Make content easily digestible
If you’re anything like the folks in charge of corporate alumni programs at most top firms, you spend more time creating content than thinking about how to make it convenient for members to consume. Forward-thinking alumni networks have began to break that mold by releasing video updates in lieu of a monthly newsletter, and alerting alumni via push notification and text message, rather than old-school email. The truth is, no matter how homogenous your network is, there’s no one-size-fits all model for content consumption. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, every member of your corporate network prefers their oatmeal content slightly differently, so the goal should be to make your resources accessible across all devices, via all media, 365 days a year. Sounds difficult? Without the right tools, it’s actually impossible. If there’s one solution to focus on these days, it’s mobile, which brings me to my last and final point...
- Multi-Channel is the answer.
Until Elon Musk connects our brains directly via his neural network and disrupts communication as we know it, offering a mobile app is likely the best way to connect your corporate alumni. While skeptics argue that users already have too many apps, we at GroupFire have seen high adoption rates among alumni networks. Goldman Sach uses our platform to power a corporate alumni app for their 10k Small Business program. It’s a vibrant hub for all of their content, events, and member-to-member engagement that provides lasting value. While I’m not authorized to share exact stats, it suffices to say that adoption has been extremely high and the most popular feature is 1-1 messaging via the member directory. If you’re considering creating an app for your corporate alumni program, make sure your provider makes it easy to update content, offers robust messaging features and customer support, and allows you to create custom spaces within the app for subgroups within your network. Of course, we’d be happy to show you what sets our platform apart, and why so many leading organizations trust GroupFire to power their mobile communities. Click the link below to get in touch -- we’d be happy to chat about your strategy to engage corporate alumni!