Alumni programmes: You never know when you’ll meet again

“Alumni“, former “pupils” of the company is often overlooked as a target group in recruitment. Yet employers would do well by maintaining and nurturing contact with former employees, trainees, apprentices, and freelancers. They not only remain influential ambassadors for the employer brand; if the timing is right, they can also become of importance once again as candidates, with one significant advantage –  you already know each other.

Many good reasons for having your own alumni programme

There are many good reasons for employers to actively cultivate an alumni network. The obvious one is of course re-employing former employees. But trainees, students on placement, and freelancers who have worked for the company in the past can also be promising candidates for a vacancy at some point. A second reason is the importance of alumni for the employer brand. Former employees are just as influential brand ambassadors as current ones – in both positive and negative ways. For this reason alone, companies should be interested in maintaining contact, even where they have long since parted ways. In addition, valuing them beyond the time spent together also has a direct, positive effect on staff motivation and loyalty. And finally, former employees may well become business customers who, out of loyalty, then opt for products or services of the company they once worked for.

Who is eligible as alumni?

If you decide to set up your own alumni program, you first must decide who you want to include. It all comes down to what exactly you would like to do in order to maintain long-term contact with the target group.

#1 Former employees
Ex-colleagues not only know the company, internal structures, and processes, but also the working atmosphere and corporate culture with all its little idiosyncrasies better than anyone else. Conversely, as an employer, you know about the skills, strengths, and weaknesses of the former employee. With this prior knowledge, a vacancy can be filled with just the right person without having to go through the entire application process. The cost per hire is significantly reduced and, during the probationary period, the new ‘old’ employee works much more effectively than inexperienced applicants.

But employers and employees seldom say goodbye to each other amicably. Irrespective of who wanted to terminate the contract, disappointment and hurt pride are what people mostly remember. Not a good basis for maintaining a relationship. Make yourself and others aware that this basically begins with offboarding. Managers, in particular, should behave appreciatively during the notice period, so that the employee does not leave in haste, not wanting to hear or see anything more about “that place”. The wish to keep in contact and inclusion in the alumni group should therefore already be discussed in the exit interview. Your employer brand will thank you.

#2 Interns & apprentices
A motivated and clever student on a work placement is worth his or her weight in gold. Unfortunately, these working relationships are by nature inherently short-term. No sooner do you get used to the support than it’s over? Nevertheless, keep in touch! University courses and training will be over at some point and the young colleague may be spoilt for choice with many employers vying for them. In this case, it will certainly be no disadvantage if the former work placement student or intern knows that they would be highly welcome as a permanent employee in your organization. Incidentally, the same applies to apprentices and trainees who decided to work for another employer immediately after completing their training. Remember: you never know when you’ll meet again.

#3 Freelancers & temps
A third important target group for your alumni programme can be freelancers and temps. They too have gained valuable insights into the company during their temporary jobs, which qualify them as top candidates for a permanent position. Even more so when managers and colleagues were satisfied with the job they did. In addition, freelancers are generally excellent networkers, who can give your employer brand a valuable push and may have suitable recommendations for job vacancies up their sleeves.

Who makes it into the alumni network? Not every former member of staff is suitable

You should not throw just anyone who has been of service to your company at some point into the alumni pot. Select the participants carefully – primarily with regard to what you want to achieve with your alumni programme. For example, is it about strengthening your employer brand, filling vacancies, or knowledge transfer in specific areas? What’s more, there are things that fundamentally disqualify former employees, trainees, or freelancers for the network. For example, someone working for a direct competitor should be left out for the time being. Legal disputes, poaching your own staff, or negative comments about your company on social media are other criteria for exclusion.


The alumni network as talentpool

You can essentially manage your alumni network in a similar way to your talent pool. Recruitment marketing platforms such as Talentry can be used to organize alumni into different groups and keep them up to date with individual content and automated campaigns that are GDPR-compliant. Including them in your referral programme is also conceivable since alumni will also be pleased to received rewards or discounts. If you are setting up the alumni programme from scratch, it is certainly advisable to find out about people’s expectations in a survey. Who is interested in what content? Which formats are popular? It there a willingness to actively shape the network. 

Possible measures and content for your alumni programme:

  • Social media campaigns as part of employer branding
  • Regular career information, e.g., about (exclusive) jobs, trainee programmes, mentoring, training courses, internships, working student jobs and other paid work
  • Newsletter by email or post
  • Regular meetings between current and former employers to exchange information
  • Invitation to company events
  • Sending Christmas and birthday cards
  • Establishment of an alumni advisory board (incl. mentoring)
  • Set up collaboration platforms for specific business areas
  • Discount programmes for alumni
  • Access to product innovations as a beta tester
  • Inclusion in the employee referral programme and access to current recruitment content (e.g. job profiles)

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