According to an article by Senior Writer Susan Milligan in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) online magazine, alumni networks are changing the way we look at employee loyalty. Susan writes about the trend of companies establishing alumni networks of former employees and the value that these hold. Gone are the days of a person leaving a company and not looking back.

How Alumni Networks Redefine Employee Loyalty

Maintaining The Employee Connection

For the longest time, it was the norm for employees to move on from companies and not maintain contact with their old employers. Even when leaving on excellent terms, employees may simply be treated to a farewell party or get-together with their colleagues. If they’re lucky, a parting gift is part of this deal as well. However, once they are out the door, they will probably not see or hear from the company again.

In recent years, companies are beginning to consider a different approach to employee loyalty. Many have established alumni programs that are designed to engage the people who walk out the door on good terms. By doing this, they hope to maintain a positive relationship with ex-employees. This is not a new concept to large consulting firms, and the relationship has its benefits, Milligan points out.

The New Business Norm

In the past, it was standard practice to stay at one company and work your way up the ladder. Now, with new generations with different values entering the workforce and companies vying for top talent, it’s no longer a case of staying at a business for your entire career.

Lifelong Employee Relationship

Numerous factors are contributing to reduced employee retention in the traditional sense. As mentioned, there are more people in the job market but also many more companies wanting to employ them. The scarcity of companies offering retirement or pension plans and healthcare plans is also a factor. Future financial security is an incredibly attractive feature for potential employees. If this is lacking, employees will seek it elsewhere, i.e., by taking better offers at other companies.

Author, entrepreneur and investor, Ben Casnocha proposes that if companies see employees leaving as an inevitability, there can be a mutual understanding and no ill will when parting ways. He uses the example of Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and highlights his idea of “tours of duty” at companies, rather than a lifelong commitment to one. 

Alumni programs let employees know that they are not disposable and that their companies care about them. By creating a better experience for employees while at work and after, companies open themselves to several benefits. Ex-employees serve as brand ambassadors, they may boomerang and return to the company at a later stage, and can offer expertise and new business at any time.

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

On the employee end, an alumni program signals that there is potential for re-employment and a source of expertise for them to draw upon. For companies, there are the benefits to be had from the PR, expertise, easy recruitment, and even sales that their previous employees can offer. Essentially, alumni programs allow companies to build relationships with employees while they are employed, then to maintain them after parting ways. 

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