Increase Your Human Capital ROI with
an Alumni Network

by Christina Morfeld

Unfortunately, and despite your best efforts, you will undoubtedly lose strong performers now and then. Whether you are forced to release them during a downsizing or they leave to explore other opportunities, their corporate knowledge - and your financial investment in developing it - walks out the door with them.

As the concept of "lifetime employment" becomes obsolete, many organizations are finding that they have more former employees than current ones. They are also beginning to recognize the bottom-line benefits of cultivating ongoing relationships with their "alumni." These include:

  • Pool of pre-qualified candidates. Given the right timing and circumstances, many individuals would welcome the opportunity to rejoin a previous employer. Even those who are reluctant to accept a "permanent" position may be interested in providing their expertise on a contract basis. Their documented work history takes much of the guesswork out of the selection process, and their direct experience with your company's operations will generally get them "up to speed" more quickly than an outside hire. Additionally, any interim employment will give them a fresh perspective, enhancing their creative and problem-solving abilities.

  • Employee referrals. Because they understand your firm's culture and requirements, individuals recommended for employment by former staff members will, in all likelihood, be relatively "good fits." This, coupled with "boomerang" employees who eventually return to your organization, can substantially reduce overall recruitment costs. (Hint: If you have an Employee Referral Awards Program in place, be sure to offer alumni the same financial incentives as internal staff.)

  • Business expansion. New professional relationships formed by your alumni may represent significant sales and/or strategic partnership opportunities for your firm.

  • Market intelligence. Former employees can help you stay abreast of trends, technologies, the competitive environment, and public perceptions of your company.

  • Advocates and ambassadors. Your alumni have the ability to influence outside opinion of your firm due to their past affiliation with you. For many organizations, this can mean thousands of individuals sharing their first-hand views - whether favorable or unfavorable!

  • Enhanced morale. The fact that you stay in touch with former employees sends a very positive message to your current workforce. It demonstrates that the company values their contributions and supports them even if their career pursuits lead them elsewhere. While this might seem counter-intuitive, it sets the tone for a relationship based on mutual respect and partnership - one that strengthens employee commitment.

That's quite a compelling business case for keeping the lines of communication open!

How you choose to go about this depends upon a number of factors, including your company's size, culture, and budgetary and staff resources. The initiative can be as simple as sending former employees corporate newsletters or as comprehensive as establishing an online community ("alumni network") through which they can access valuable resources and interact with the company and one another.

While the latter approach is obviously more costly, the rewards can be much richer. Your interest in the ongoing success of former employees fosters a desire to reciprocate, and the fact that the infrastructure supports multi-directional communication makes it easy for them to do so.

The importance of mutual benefit cannot be overstated, as only then will you generate enough registrations and return visits to justify the expense.

A dynamic website that includes a searchable directory of former employees, company and alumni news, job leads, business and career management information and tools, and discussion boards will keep visitors engaged and - most importantly - eager to remain an active and contributing member of your corporate family!

Christina Morfeld is president of Affinity Business Communications, a provider of high-quality instructional design, technical writing, and content development solutions. Whether writing to instruct, inform, or persuade, our work is reader-focused, benefits-oriented, and results-driven. Contact us at 203-445-9964 or, or visit our website at to learn how we can increase your firm's sales and effectiveness!

Many more articles in Performance Improvement in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2002 by Christina Morfeld and Affinity Business Communications, LLC.
Originally published by All rights reserved.

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