What Your Corporate Alumni Program Has to Do With Employee Engagement

February 04, 2014

Employee Engagement and Alumni Engagement

Ultimately, the success of any organization comes down to one thing: the engagement of its people.

For most companies, “people” primarily means “employees.” That’s why “employee engagement” is such a big buzzword in the training and development space, and why it shows no indication of becoming less of a concern for HR. The math behind this concern is simple: engaged employees means productive employees, which ultimately means a better bottom line.

For organizations expanding their vision to include their corporate alumni in their people strategy, the math is very similar: engaged alumni means expanded business opportunities, which ultimately means a better bottom line.

The strategy for both boils down to one thing: engaged people.

Consider this: your current employees are also your future alumni. All of your people, past or present, exist along the same continuum.

alumni engagement

Whether these people have already left the organization or are current employees is irrelevant – the strategy to engage one population should be one in the same with the strategy to engage the other. They cannot, and should not, be separated.

Alumni Engagement and Brand Ambassadors

Here’s the short of it: brand ambassadors can’t be created overnight. Nor can they be created from a group of people who are disengaged and disconnected from your brand and your organization. If you’re serious about your corporate alumni program, you must be serious about your alumni engagement - and that means paying close attention to your brand, your culture, and your current employees’ level of engagement with both.

If you have a strong base of engaged employees, you already have a strong base for a formalized alumni program. Likewise, if you fix a current problem with engagement among your employees, you’re also paving the way for a successful alumni program.

Why? Because you’re not just engaging employees – you’re successfully getting them to buy into your brand.

The truth is that no organization can truly excel without buy-in from its own people. If they refuse to buy in, why should anyone else? And in the age of Glassdoor, word of this travels quickly.

Consider what “buy-in” really means: that someone has mentally ‘purchased,’ so to speak, a philosophy, culture, or way of life. They have adapted their worldview. They have invested at least some part of themselves in it.

They have a very real stake in it.

This is what you’re asking of your brand ambassadors: to buy into your brand and sell it – whether mentally or monetarily – to others, they must first have subscribed to your philosophy.

Now ask yourself three things:

  1. Is your philosophy – that is, your brand – worth buying into?
  2. Have you bought into the people you want to be your brand ambassadors?
  3. If you haven’t, why should they buy into you?

Brand, Culture, and Alumni Engagement

Insala CEO Phillip Roark recently gave a webinar discussing the cyclical nature of brand, culture, and employee engagement. Once again, the model is very similar for alumni.

employee engagement alumni engagement

If employees are enthusiastic about the culture they engage with throughout their career at an organization, you can bet that it will be that same culture that they praise and advocate to others outside the organization.

In short, your internal culture becomes the same as your external brand.

And this is the way it should be – when there’s a disconnect between external brand and internal culture, that signifies trouble for the organization.

But when brand and culture are the same thing, brand isn’t just something that’s marketed to the public – it’s something that’s lived every day in the workplace. Employees don’t get excited about their company’s marketing messaging unless they work in marketing. It doesn’t affect their day to day lives. Their stake in it is tangential at best.

But their stake in your brand can be substantial – should they choose to make the investment.

What will make their decision? How they’re allowed to contribute. Their barriers to success. Their opportunities for professional development. What they’ll be able to take with them through life.

Finally, we’ll leave you with a word of caution: buying in isn’t a one-time choice. It’s something that’s chosen every day, and it can be revoked at any time. Give your people – all of them – reasons to buy into you.

For our best practices for engaging your alumni, read our article "How to Engage Your Alumni and Win Their Business".


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