In this video, learn how to implement an alumni network foundation at your company.
- So what are the practical steps of actually setting up your alumni network? Well first of all, as soon as you actually have alumni, that's the right time to start setting up the alumni network. Don't wait until you've got hundreds, or even thousands, of alumni. Start right at the beginning. This allows you to capture every single person, if possible. Now, who do you include in your alumni network? We recommend that you include all your former employees who are in good standing. Now what do I mean by that? If somebody is not in good standing, that means that they're suing the company, or they did something illegal and were fired for cause.
I think everyone can understand that you probably don't want those people as part of your alumni network, but the other thing you can do is you could also build an alumni network for your distinguished alumni. This is what LinkedIn has done. LinkedIn actually has a distinguished alumni network where the people receive additional benefits, special dinners for example or events where they get to meet with the founders and current executives. When you set up this alumni network, as you would with any alliance, you need to explicitly define the expectations and the benefits of the relationship.
It's all about maintaining that sense of open, honest, trustworthy relationship. One of the ways to do this is to keep your alumni informed about what's happening with the business. The marketing software provider HubSpot would send a senior executive to every alumni group meeting, and in the days leading up to HubSpot's IPO, one of the things the HubSpot executives would do would be to share financial information to the alumni. Obviously, the alumni were very interested in what was happening, how the company was doing, and providing that information helped cement that relationship.
Once you have this network of alumni, you also need to create events for them to give the opportunities to both interact with each other and to interact with current employees. Think about how your college arranges your alumni reunions. Every five years, you get together with your classmates, you get to see old professors, you get to take classes, you get to meet all sorts of interesting people, and then the net result is you end up donating more money than you expect. That's what the college is looking for, but you can do the same thing as a corporation building your corporate alumni network.
eBay for example takes that college approach and applies it to its own alumni. They actually set up reunions based on your class. By class, rather than a specific year in which they graduate, it's a year or period of years in which they've joined, so the class of 2000 to 2004 would be people who joined in that time frame. What happens when you do this is that when people think about going to this reunion, they start calling their old colleagues. They say hey, are you going? I would love to see you, and the whole thing feeds on itself and produces a bigger event, greater togetherness, and a greater emotional impact.
The other thing you should do, this is still a reciprocal relationship, you need to make clear what benefits the alumni are getting out of the relationship. They understand they're bringing you value, but you're also bringing them value. For example, when alumni help you by referring job candidates, why not give them a hiring bonus, just like you would give a hiring bonus to employee referrals. Just a couple of hires a year would pay for your entire alumni program. Take the alumni program and make it a part of your exit process. When you're going through the exit interview, don't just have the employee sign their paperwork and go on their way.
Immediately transition them into their new alumni relationship where you welcome them into the alumni network and explain how they're going to benefit in the years to come.
Reid and Chris share specific insights from their own experiences with companies like PayPal, Kapost, and LinkedIn, and more.
- Defining a rotational, transformational, or foundational tour of duty
- How to identify each employee's values and aspirations
- Aligning employee, manager, and company goals
- Establishing and leveraging alumni networks