Guest post by Nicole Fouchier, Emojiee

Four reasons why you should invest in a strong corporate alumni network.

Universities know for quite a while that investing in their alumni network is pivotal for their advancement. That alumni are one of their most value bale resources. In 1792, Yale University was the first to organize alumni systematically by class. The benefits of having a strong alumni network are clear in higher education. Alumni support their schools through financial gifts, expertise, and time. They fund research programs, scholarships, student services and new facilities. They provide internships and career opportunities to students. They talk passionately about their lives as students and fraternities, their relationships with their professors and reminisce about chilling with their fellow students. Some of them even met their spouses on campus. They’re the best ambassadors of their university degree. Therefore, universities make sure their alumni are on good terms with them and engaged.

The business case for engaging corporate alumni is remarkably similar. While these ex-employees don’t write checks to endow interns or new hires, their ability to drive the company forward is undeniable.
The benefits of a university alumni network show great similarities with a corporate alumni network. But surprisingly enough, corporate alumni networks on the other hand are not common practice for companies. One of the most untapped valuable resources –standing right in front of you- is yet still to be discovered to its fullest potential.

Employees are the heart and soul of any organization. They spend months, years, and sometimes decades of their lives working for an employer, embedded in the culture and building value for customers, clients and shareholders. They develop friendships with colleagues. They meet mentors. They learn. They grow. Just like students at their alma maters.

And many times, employees eventually leave. Some leave for a more favorable position, like a bigger job title or better compensation package. Others just to escape bad managers. Some quit to pursue major lifestyle changes, such as moving to a different city or starting one’s own business. Most depart with a happy face; a few leave dismayed.

Here are four key reasons why your company’s alumni are among your most powerful untapped assets:

1. Brand Ambassadors

All of your former employees are ambassadors for your company’s brand, whether they know it or not, and whether you like it or not. Let’s face it. Your company’s brand becomes less and less under your control. Spending money on marketing campaigns can drive awareness, but most buzz emerges from social media and personal interactions. Whenever the alumni share their thoughts — through small talk during an industry gathering or through a detailed review on social media like LinkedIn, Facebook or — they’re shaping perceptions of your company to the outside world. Their words are given extra weight because they were part of the organization. Being third parties, they’re perceived as being more objective. They’re not getting a pay­check to advocate. If they promote a product, service or initiative on social media, alumni have credibility that current employees simply can’t duplicate. With a strong alumni communication and engagement strategy, your former employees will have the foundation to serve as advocates on your behalf.
In all, the more a corporate alumni network strengthens the company’s brand, the easier it becomes to leverage that network for recruitment, network intelligence, and customer referrals.

2. Business Development

An employee may leave the company, but comes back as a client or customer, or refers them. Alumni are one of the most important constituencies from a marketing perspective. Unless your former employees change careers entirely when they move on, chances are they’ll be employed by organizations that relate to your business: peers, competitors, business partners, clients, and potential customers and clients. This means that in many cases, your alumni will be in a position to send business your way and vice versa. Through leads, referrals, and introductions. Therefore, it’s important that you keep them informed and engaged about your new products and services, so that they can advocate when appropriate.

3. Industry knowledge & innovation

Former employees are a great source of industry intelligence—competitive information, effective business practices, emerging industry trends, and more. Not only do they have knowledge of the outside world that a company’s current employees do not, they also know what makes the company tick. When alumni are part of a thriving network that provides real value and mutual benefit, they’ll be happy to support their former employer. They can even become partners in new business creation through startups and scale ups.

4. Recruitment & outplacement

Finally, your former employees can also refer great candidates. As we all know, recruiting great people is expensive. An alumni network that generates just a few hires a year is easily worth six figures on hiring value alone. Given the cost of professional recruiters and the value and increasing scarcity of skilled job candidates, soliciting alumni referrals is bound to become the number one business opportunity on the HR agenda. Alumni know your business inside and out. They also know what it takes to succeed and be at ease in your company’s culture. For these reasons, they’re perfect partners to refer job candidates within their networks.. They’re also able to help current employees transition to other employment (outplacement). When you treat your alumni with care and provide value for them, they’ll help in recruit fresh talent, and outplace current employees looking for new opportunities. You could give your former employees an alumni referral incentive, or special access to job postings. Your alumni may even come across a role that personally interests them. We all know that returning employees (boomerangs) are a win for both employer and employee. Also the ones that were previously outplaced with support of alumni. Boomerangs bring company knowledge and relationships, along with refreshed perspective from the outside, which lets them hit the ground running. Simply keeping an open line of communication with alumni can do wonders for your talent acquisition efforts.

Keep a properly implemented alumni network: In real live and digitally.
The very presence of a properly implemented corporate alumni network can help a company close great candidates. Candidates don’t need to guess what impact working at the company has on their life or career in the future. Just like students assess a university on the likelihood to provide them with good career opportunities, candidates will more and more do the same with companies. The fact that McKinsey alumni have gone on to lead hundreds of billion-dollar companies illustrates the benefits of joining the firm. Does McKinsey remind prospective employees of this fact? Of course they do.

Just as Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge are for the university world, McKinsey, Bain&Company and BCG are well known role models in flourishing corporate alumni network. These companies never advertise, never recruit talent publicly, and yet they’re still the top leading firms with an impressive clientele and recruiting some of the most talented people in the world. As global competition for business and talent increases rapidly now — and relationship capital becomes more vital than ever —a growth in corporate alumni networks in the coming years awaits.

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