Why choose the company with the alumni community as your next employer

Have you ever changed workplaces and wished you could return to the old one?

Have you ever missed your teammates from a former workplace and wanted to socialize with them again?

Have you ever felt you could refer a perfect candidate for a position at your ex-company?

If only you could.

If only they had treated you well when you were leaving.

If only there was a community which could give you the platform to connect.

If only your previous employer cared.

In fact, more and more employers do. In this blog, we'll show you the reasons why and why you should pick them as your next employer.

source: https://enterprisealumni.com/news/corporate-alumni/alumni-group-employee-experience/

A life changing birthday party

It was supposed to be an ordinary party. I never thought it would be a game changer. I did feel thrilled to see my ex-teammates from the language school, recall the funny stories and socialise with them and their partners. But I wasn’t expecting the event to turn my life around.

Truth is, I was feeling a little low in those days. I was stuck in a job I had taken to change from teaching English in random and often unusual hours for an unpredictable salary. I had left a small but great team of young and eager English teachers behind to work for a multinational company. Now I was responsible for collecting money from debtors relying on my weak German language skills in a steady 9-5 job in a huge open office. It was painfully not meant for me.

A topic I elaborated on in the party on that lovely April night. In an iconic ruin pub in the heart of Budapest, surrounded by ex-colleagues from the language school, some still working there, some already in other jobs like me, I shared my misery about not being able to find a way to teach English under the right circumstances (for me) and having to work in an unfulfilling job till I die.

Then we changed the subject and had a really good time drinking, dancing and relating memorable events and present happenings in the language school. Like I said at the beginning: an ordinary party. Apart from a phone call I got the following week. The phone call that changed everything.

It was István Nagy, husband of a colleague from the language school. Besides, then-CTO, now-CEO of ALLWIN. You wouldn’t guess but he had attended the party. He was seated opposite me and of course, heard me whining. He was calling to invite me to a job interview for the position of English as a Foreign Language Teacher. Following the interview, the co-founders of ALLWIN offered me the dream job I’d described in the birthday party: full-time, in-house English teacher. 9-5. One-on-one classes. My own way. “Just teach us how to communicate to international clients in English properly.”

Return on Relationship

I quit my collection specialist job the next day. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

source: https://www.facebook.com/ALLWINInformatika/photos/2440963536230407

A decision I might have never got the chance to make if it hadn’t been for the language school and the culture there. You see, the owner of the school never claimed the company to be more than it was: a workplace for young, outgoing professionals with no childcare duties preventing them from spending even Sunday mornings at work.

You can guess their fluctuation rate operating in a female-dominated profession like teaching. But, for the same reasons, those quitting were never treated as traitors while spending their notice period. Also, nobody was forbidden to meet ex-colleagues outside or inside the language school after they had left. And that’s important to consider when choosing a company for work.

What the owner of the language school must have recognised is that "Your network is your net worth". Or, as James Sinclair, CEO of Enterprise Alumni puts it, a company is only as good as its relationships. Employers following on his advice measure not only ROI (Return on Investment) but also ROR (Return on Relationship). And that's the point.  Companies managing an active alumni community do keep Return on Relationship in mind.

Four ways companies benefit from their alumni community - and vice versa

Of course, there is always a WIIFM factor in business. Companies giving serious thought and budget to lifelong relationships with their employees typically see twice the revenue, four times the profit, and six times the employer attractiveness over those that think the last stage of the employee lifecycle is their exit. No wonder then that as employees are leaving their jobs at quicker rates, more and more companies set up alumni communities to stay connected to their previous workforce.

There are usually four ways in which they benefit from their alumni network:

1. recruitment

2. sales and business development

3. brand advocacy

4. company initiatives

source: https://cdn.shrm.org/image/upload/c_crop%2ch_827%2cw_1470%2cx_273%2cy_185/c_fit%2cf_auto%2cq_auto%2cw_767/v1/Magazine/Chart_1_cqrn6f

Recruitment

Keeping their alumni community engaged, companies can speed up their recruitment and referral processes. According to Enterprise Alumni, one of their customers recognized that a 1% increase in their rehire rate yielded $1.25m in savings and the implementation of an alumni program was able to increase their rehire rate from 2.4% up to 8%.

source: https://enterprisealumni.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Alumni-Recruiting-ROI-2020.pdf

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn argues that so-called boomerang employees’ special value lies in having an outsider perspective combined with an insider’s knowledge of company process and culture. Moreover, since boomerang employees are known, they are often considered to be less risky than first-time hires. Also, they’ve been there, done that, thus require less training and onboarding time. Plus, they are well-aware of what they can expect from the company, so they may be more committed this time and less likely to leave again. Above all, their experience gained at other firms while away usually enables them to bring back fresh knowledge and new skills.

And what do boomerang hires have to say about all this? Let's hear it from them.

One of the most ancient ALLWIN employees, our Head of Development, Attila Kun has had his fair share of being a boomerang hire.  

He first started working for ALLWIN back in 2008, when he was still a college student. After five years of various projects, he decided to seek out new challenges and try himself in the startup world. Co-founders Dániel Szöllősi and László Fülöp organized a farewell dinner for him where he was also given a 12-year-old whiskey as a goodbye gift. The whole experience gave him the impression that the founders were supporting him in proceeding in his career.

They way they treated him during his exit must have influenced his decision to accept ALLWIN’s job offer a year later. He was invited to return and work on a greenfield R&D project whose scope was an image processing software product. This was even more tempting than his job at the startup company, especially due to the prospect of becoming a software architect for the first time in his life.

Although not as a software architect, he had grown tremendously during his one-year long tenure at the startup company. He was given the opportunity to experience how agile projects work in real life, taking part in daily stand-ups and involving colleagues from all over the world in virtual meetings. All this was twelve years prior to COVID. Also, the culture of the organization has made a life-long impact on his way of thinking and developed his ‘can-do’ attitude even further. Attila firmly believes that ALLWIN got him back as a much more valuable employee than they had in him when he left them.

Steve Cadigan, first CHRO of LinkedIn, writes in his book ‘Workquake’ that the primary driver of employees changing jobs so often is to learn and develop enough in order to stay relevant and employable. This idea is reflected in another long-time ALLWIN employee’s story.

Back in 2014, Sitecore software developer Balázs Mezei got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after he’d been with ALLWIN for less than a year. He won a scholarship to study at ESIGELEC, a university in Rouen, France. He liked it at ALLWIN because it provided him with a professionally challenging, flexible job with a friendly and collaborative team and a supportive work environment. Coming from the same higher educational background, he felt he could align with the mindset of the founders and found their leadership style quite appealing. But he longed to broaden his horizon abroad, so he left for half a year.

When he returned, the founders of ALLWIN were eager to rehire him. What did they gain? A loyal employee armed with newly learnt communication and presentation skills, brushed-up English language skills and some basic French knowledge. Balázs, who never shies away from hard work, has been on our Sitecore team for seven years now.

Obviously not everyone in your alumni network is returning as a boomerang employee, but they can still refer great candidates for open positions, help with reference checks or judge whether someone is a good cultural fit, even when they don’t personally know the candidate. Some firms even offer their alumni members cash bonuses in return.

Hoffman also says that the very presence of a properly implemented alumni network reflects well on the company image. It is therefore suggested to very early inform candidates about its existence so they are aware that their potential future employer does address a fundamental human need, i.e. a sense of belonging. So, when the time comes, they can expect a welcoming exit process into an alumni community that keeps a strong lifelong relationship going.

Sales and business development

Companies from a variety of industries look to alumni to help boost sales and drive business development. They know their alumni often leave their jobs to take roles with partners, clients, competitors, or potential business partners. And if the organizations devote the same amount of time and resources to offboarding and maintaining their alumni community as they do to onboarding new hires and retaining employees, their alumni members are bound to become vital referrals and sources of new business.

ALLWIN, for example, was referred to our partner, Cone Health by Péter Kránicz, a former employee leaving our company behind for his dream job in the US years back. Although ALLWIN is yet to establish a formally organized alumni community, it did make a positive impact on Péter when he was leaving. His offboarding process went smoothly, his leader and the CEO both wished him good luck to his international career, assuring him that he’s welcomed to return to the company any time.

So, years later, when his employer’s co-development partner in the US was looking for a company to help them package and release an internally developed software product and hire a developer team to support their increasing software innovation department and goals, he did not hesitate to recommend his former employer in Hungary.

One of the major pitfalls companies fall into is not integrating their alumni community program in their business strategy and activities. Instead, managing the alumni community is considered a separate project, often landing on someone’s plate who oversees a hundred other projects as well. But even if the company assigns the appropriate financial and human resource to building the community, it remains isolated from the core business operations in most cases.

However, weaving this community into your business strategy represents a significant opportunity to bolster your organization for two reasons according to alumni relations and community engagement expert Martine Davies: “Firstly, it positions the alumni programme well within the business, giving it recognised value. Secondly, it gets the Business Development teams to think ‘alumni’ and to turn some ‘former colleagues’ relationships into valuable and trusted business relationships.”

(Employer) Brand Advocacy

Referring to a client, James Sinclair suggests when someone is leaving your workforce, it should be considered to be a promotion from employee to customer. And if the exit process ends up being a good experience for both parties, there is a very good chance that the ex-employee becomes an advocate of the company.

According to Hoffman, company alumni can help create the buzz generated by grass-roots interest as opposed to paid advertisement which is only capable of raising awareness. This is especially effective if they out¬number a firm’s current employees. Also, alumni have the advantage of being third parties and thus are perceived as more objective. They’re not paid to share, like or comment on posts. If they promote a product, initiative, or the company as a workplace on social media or respond to the posts of customers or prospects, alumni have credibility that current employees simply can’t duplicate.

People Path, a global leading provider of cloud-based platforms designed to engage and manage relationships with candidates, current and former employees, has calculated that alumni advocates are up to 40% more influential than the best clients of the company. Plus, companies with Corporate Alumni Programs have on average 16% higher Glassdoor ratings as stated by the Conenza Alumni Program Benchmarking Report.

So, if you carefully do your research on the company you’re about to join on social media and see ex-employees are advocating for company products, initiatives or offer them as a good place to work, you can be quite sure it is safe to take their job offer. See the LinkedIn post below as an example.

source: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/brettanypayne_brettany-at-stories-activity-6867216657148977152-hfDi

Who would question Stories Incorporated is a good place to work when their former employee is endorsing them? 

Company Initiatives

More and more companies are launching their ESG (environmental, social and governance) program to engage their employees and attract talent. And it is indeed expected from today’s employers to do the right thing and volunteer, donate, operate in a sustainable business model, create a diverse and inclusive workplace, educate, and share their knowledge and become thought leaders in professional or social issues. Challenging, right?

If a company commits to such an initiative or even integrates it into its business strategy, losing an employee responsible for the program could quite negatively impact the cause. However, keeping in touch with the former employee through the alumni community might keep the initiative on the right track. Also, alumni are often working on CSR initiatives through their new employer and might be open to share their experience or network with their prior firm.

When it comes to thought leadership and knowledge sharing, involving alumni in webinars, company podcasts, internal trainings, conferences, or other public events is certainly an idea not to be dismissed. This would serve the interest of the company in two ways: it could keep alumni engaged while providing fresh knowledge, perspective, and networking opportunities for current employees.

source: https://www.amazon.com/Learnings-Leaders-Alumni-Podcast/dp/B08K58BGMT

Conclusion

Companies managing an active alumni community have realized the importance of nurturing a lifelong relationship with their employees. They want to be part of the disruption of adopting new models of recruiting, training, compensation and creating a sense of belonging at work. Therefore, having an officially organized and constantly engaging alumni network implies that your potential future employer is one of the forward-thinking and more realistic organizations that considers employment to be a loyalty pact between employer and employee. Or, as the authors of the book ‘The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age’ put it:

“And when a company and its managers and employees adopt this kind of approach, all parties can focus on maximizing medium- and long-term benefits, creating a larger pie for all and more innovation, resilience and adaptability for the company.”

Wanna join in creating this larger pie at ALLWIN? :-) Check out our open positions here.

source: https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*j9jhv3t_uxfWS_536VKGJQ.png

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