How to Engage Your Alumni and Win Their Business

February 10, 2014

Your Corporate Alumni Program's Best Practices

We’ve noted in a previous article ("What Your Corporate Alumni Program Has to Do With Employee Engagement") that engagement of your alumni ultimately rests on engagement of your current employees. In fact, if you know you have an employee engagement problem right now, we can guarantee that any alumni program you may have currently or are planning is not sustainable.

This is a problem if you consider that you’re up against the fact that your alumni also belong to other alumni networks, many of whom are probably your competitors. You and your competitors are all competing for the same business. When it comes to the corporate alumni you have in common with each other, it’s no different. You're simply targeting a more specific group - your alumni - to win their business.

Take the following five best practices as a high-level model of how to engage your alumni. Note, however, that engaging your alumni is the fifth and last step: four steps must precede it.

Best Practices to Engage Your Alumni

1. Develop a strategy to create and engage brand ambassadors while they’re at the company.

Part of the reason there’s a question of how to engage alumni at all is because alumni are by definition a population that has left the company. In many cases, this also means that they are no longer associated with the company. The question is valid – how can you possibly engage a community of people who no longer have anything to do with you, or with each other? The answer: you can’t. The only solution is to engage your people while they are a part of your company.

2. Build a bridge between current and future alumni.

Give your current employees access to your alumni community through your alumni software, including its career and networking tools. The knowledge capital and connections that your current alumni have is extremely valuable to your current employees. Without an existing bridge between employees and alumni, you’re only realizing half of your alumni community’s potential.

3. Promote participation of employees in talent development programs.

Let your employees know early on – preferably from Day One – that you take your relationship with them seriously. “Buy into” them, and have a stake in their development with the understanding that developed employees can only drive your organization to newer and greater heights, and that the ways you engage with them now are the seeds of your corporate alumni program’s success. Be sure to target your promotion to particular segments of your employees depending on your business objectives.

4. Engage employees around their own personal development at the organization.

Take your talent development programs and activities seriously. You’re not just promoting your alumni program through your talent development programs – you’re creating a culture of development, and engaging your employees around your brand.

5. Continue to engage those same brand ambassadors as alumni through the corporate alumni program even after they leave the organization.

Finally, ensure that you have two things in place to continue to engage your people: 1) a communication and engagement strategy to create a dialogue with them, and 2) an alumni platform through which they can network and communicate with each other. These are two standard pieces of any alumni strategy. However, if your alumni program is long-term – as it most probably is – we can guarantee that this will not be enough.

To go above and beyond this standard strategy, ensure that you develop another piece: 3) a way to engage your alumni over many years, continue to build upon your connection, and encourage them to keep their data current. This is something with which most corporate alumni programs struggle. If your alumni’s data is not up-to-date, it will not be useful to you, and your program will be nowhere near as successful as it could otherwise be.

Read on for more information about how alumni software can help you engage your alumni.

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