10 Tips to Create the Best Corporate Alumni Network
Leading corporate alumni managers share tips, tricks and best practices about how they add value to their alumni programs.
An enthusiastic group of alumni program managers from 15 companies recently gathered at the Conenza Alumni Program Summit (CAPS) in Montana for a series of knowledge-sharing sessions. During the two-day event, speakers shared insights and best practices about what adds value to their corporate alumni programs.
We took notes!
Top 10 takeaways from leading corporate alumni program managers on building the best corporate alumni network
1. Equip alumni to speak correctly and confidently about your company
Alumni can be some of your best brand ambassadors. You don’t want them telling old stories. Make sure that your alumni have the right information to speak accurately about your current products, services, mission and initiatives. They should know about all the cool things your company is working on, so they can share when a friend or colleague asks.
2. Recruit a strong executive sponsor
There is a common thread between almost all successful corporate alumni networks; they have an executive sponsor who believes strongly in the value of an alumni network. An active executive sponsor works as an evangelist for the program and will spread the word, open doors, staff a well-equipped alumni team, and empower alumni managers to try new things and take risks while working to build an engaged alumni network.
3. Create a one-pager illustrating the value of the alumni program
To build the best corporate alumi network, from time to time you’ll need evidence showing the value of the corporate alumni network to get more budget, internal buy-in, alumni benefits or team resources. Make sure you have a short summary (or a full report) explaining your corporate alumni network and business drivers along with accomplishments, alumni quotes, and photos to paint a picture of your community.
4. Lean on internal employees, partners, stakeholders
You don’t have to do it all yourself. Most often a corporate alumni program is managed by one person, but these same programs are pulling ideas and support from internal employees, partners and stakeholders. Client examples of this include: extending employee resource groups or business resource groups to alumni, and employees volunteering to host an alumni event at their office location.
5. Gather more and better quality data to increase the program’s value
Data continues to be a focus for alumni program managers, building on the findings in our 2017 Benchmarking Study. Managers admit the importance of data is easily forgotten in their daily hustle, but that it is increasingly valuable to understand their alumni demographics and motivators. PeoplePath encourages our clients to do an annual alumni survey, integrate with internal data sources (CRM, HRIS, ATS), update alumni key profile data, and leverage metrics, e.g., Net Promoter Score®, to track and measure key goals.
6. Spend the time to create unique content
Thoughtful, quality content provides real value to your community and should not be overlooked while creating the best alumni network. Work towards creating unique pieces for alumni that they won’t get elsewhere. Make it easier by choosing topics that interest you. Chances are your alumni will find them interesting too. Do you have a former employee that opened a cupcake shop, moved somewhere exotic or returned to your company? Spotlight them! A simple Q&A-style interview is a great way to showcase personality. Do you have company news to share? Make sure to add insights that could be relevant for alumni. Be creative. Have fun.
7. Celebrate alumni
Build a consistent message that your alumni are valued. Many alumni managers attend new employee orientation and talk about the lifelong relationships they want to have with their current and former employees. When alumni are rehired at your company, celebrate the occasion, announce their return and use the opportunity to remind employees about the corporate alumni network and the role it plays.
8. Provide networking and knowledge-sharing events
Face-to-face connection is important in building the best alumni network. Minimally your company should host one in-person event to cement the relationships with alumni. Don’t forget #4 above and lean on your employees in other locations to help organize and facilitate events. You can also offer online events or online participation at real-world events for remote locations.
9. Build in a social responsibility element
Social responsibility is a growing priority for corporate alumni networks. Alumni place great value in social responsibility initiatives, especially young alumni and retirees. Most companies already have these events and you can easily extend the opportunities to alumni to volunteer at a food bank, walk in a pride parade or listen to a webinar on equal pay.
10. Try things out and take risks
Alumni networks, like real communities, are dynamic and always evolving. Corporate alumni managers have to work to continue engaging alumni. Try new ideas. You never know what might resonate with members of your corporate alumni network.