Your Best New Hire Could Be an Old One

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By Genevieve Douglas

March 2 — Corporate alumni networks let employers stay in touch with former staffers, making it easier to re-hire them or to get a trusted referral for a brand new hire, practitioners told Bloomberg BNA.

As with university alumni networks, corporate alumni networks can benefit their organizations, Liza Bennigson, director of business development for San Francisco-based software provider KonnectAgain, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 29. However, although higher education institutions do a good job of staying in touch with former students, the corporate world hasn't been as effective at staying connected with those who move on, Bennigson said.

The benefits of remaining in contact with former employees are multifold, she said. For one thing, companies are increasingly recognizing that their alumni pool is a great source of talent, Bennigson said. The cost of hiring someone new can be twice that of rehiring a person who already knows the company systems and procedures, she said.

Moreover, Bennigson said, former employees may have garnered new, valuable skills, which they can then bring back to their original employers.

In addition, employers can get referrals for new hires from former employees they maintain a relationship with, she said.

Finally, she said, keeping in touch with alumni helps maintain a good brand and reputation for the employer.

Employer alumni networks are more important than ever, Bennigson said, because of the nature of today's employment relationships. Millennials, who will be a majority of the workforce by 2025, are more likely to move from employer to employer, she noted. “This idea of lifetime employment doesn’t exist anymore,” she said, but that doesn't mean that once an employee leaves, he or she is gone for good.

Social media, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, can help employers stay in touch with ex-employees, but those aren't as exclusive and focused as a network set up by the company, she said.

Relationships Strengthened at End, Beginning

The most opportune time to make a connection with departing employees is during the offboarding process, which often is overlooked by an organization, Danny Nelms, president of the Work Institute, told Bloomberg BNA March 1. The consulting firm is based in Brentwood, Tenn.

The exit interview, in particular, is a “really important” part of this process, Nelms said. Employees need to know that hearing what they've experienced during their employment is valuable to the organization, he said.

Bennigson recommended that employers model their alumni strategies on the ways universities cultivate strong alumni groups. Colleges start a lifetime relationship with students when they're freshmen to create a real affinity for and loyalty toward the school, she said.

Likewise, employers should start engaging their employees early, and take advantage of every opportunity to bring alumni back as mentors or speakers, Bennigson said. Organizations should also highlight alumni employees’ successes after their tenure at the company, she said. “That’s definitely a great way to make your alumni want to stay involved,” she said. “Everyone in the company, current, former and future, is interested in those kinds of stories.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com