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Mar 15, 2011

What typically happens when an employee leaves an organization? The employer and employee share a few laughs, celebrate the good memories and begin to redefine a new chapter in their relationship moving forward.

Sound familiar? Well, it shouldn’t. The relationship between employers and former employees is often messy regardless of the circumstance. Someone feels rejected. Someone feels awkward. Both feel abused and the result is often an offboarding process that somehow goes awry.

The proliferation of social media only exacerbates this situation, since former employees now have an outlet to channel their frustrations. Sites like Glassdoor and Jobvent are quickly gaining steam as a place for former employees to voice their opinions and rate organizations.

A former AIG employee recently posted the following on Glassdoor:

AIG has not treated me and others well after we were terminated. Often decisions about how to treat customers are driven by profit and not what is the right thing to do.”

It is starting to get ugly. For those organizations not thinking about their alumni, now is a good time to start.

According to a study conducted by Manpower, 84 percent of people will be looking for a new job in 2011. Best practice organizations are beginning to recognize that an alumni program will not only improve employer branding but can also serve as a powerful recruiting tool.

The catch is that employers need to create, manage, and cultivate these programs. It requires a dedicated individual, strong communication strategy, a system to measure the progress, and of course, technology.

Why you should consider an Alumni Program

  1. Employee Referral Programs — Since Employee Referral Programs are often considered the most effective recruiting tool, organizations should consider expanding these programs to include alumni. Former employees have great insight into the company culture and can help identify quality of hire. Organizations should include alumni in employee referral communication strategies and also provide former employees with the same incentives they would provide existing employees.
  2. Boomerangs — “Boomerangs” are former employees who have been hired back into the organization. Best practice organizations are actively expanding their talent pools and engaging with both active and passive candidates. Alumni should be part of this process and organizations should aim to have a rehire rate of over 10 percent. Deloitte is one example of a company that invests heavily in their alumni program with a rehire rate of 20 percent.
  3. Employer branding — The most critical impact of alumni programs falls under employer branding. For many industries, such as professional services, former employees will one day become clients. Organizations need to treat their alumni with the same level of attention and support that they show their customers. With social media and sites like Glassdoor on the rise, a poor alumni strategy can negatively impact the employer brand and directly impact the bottom line.

How can you leverage technology?

  • Dedicated website: Some organizations, such as Scott Paper Company, SAIC, Sara Lee, and the Federal Government, host dedicated websites for their alumni. These sites post information on events, employee referral programs, provide collaboration, and in the case of McDonald’s UK, even provide coupons to former employees.
  • Social media: The most popular and most affordable way to leverage technology for alumni programs is through social media. Companies such as Salesforce and Deloitte have created employer-driven LinkedIn groups for their alumni. These groups help alumni to stay connected to their former colleagues and even include information on alumni events and resources. Ernst and Young invite alumni to participate in their impressive Facebook page.
  • Innovative technology: Innovation is a key theme in talent management technology today. Forward-looking solutions providers are entering the market looking to make the process of recruiting and retaining top talent more efficient and more effective. Some of these solution providers, including Social Text, Avature, Zapoint, and Jobs2Web offer capabilities to help support alumni programs. Organizations should take a closer look at both their existing technology and innovative solutions to see how they can strengthen their alumni programs.

In a world of greater transparency and increasing competition, organizations can strengthen employer branding and talent acquisition efforts through a formalized alumni program. These employer-driven programs leveraging technology will help them achieve results and gain competitive advantage.

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