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Employer Brand Strategy Sprint Series


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How to get Former Employees to Build Your Reputation

3 min read.



Employer Branding, Talent Retention, Career Sites

Your alumni experience is one of the most important and powerful means of building and maintaining a sustainable reputation as an employer over a long period of time, yet it’s usually the most under invested - It is never an urgent priority, it’s never ‘on fire’.

An alumni community, however, will always be growing, increasing in seniority, experience, and influence. It’s the most authentic and believable facet of your Employer Brand too.

Creating a community that you regularly maintain and engage with, and which provides benefits for the organisation from a reputational perspective and to the former employees within it, can be extremely valuable. 

According to a study by Randstad US, 57% of job candidates avoid companies with negative online reviews. But it also reveals a disconnect in that two thirds of managers don’t think negative reviews impact the ability to attract the top talent. Only 34 per cent of HR managers think bad reviews matter.

Glassdoor, has plenty of statistics on the matter, including that 86 per cent of employees and job seekers research company reviews and ratings while deciding where to apply for a job and there is a 30 per cent greater retention rate among hires who use its site. In addition, 50% of candidates say they wouldn't work for a company with a bad reputation.

There are plenty of other stats to back up the argument that employee voice matters and brings more credibility than when it comes from the boardroom.

Employee reviews count

Those employee opinions, if they are a positive voice about your organisation, can be incredibly powerful if you leverage them in the right way.

More and more companies are switching on to the need to invest serious time and money to create an enthusiastic and positive cohort of former employees. It may not be an urgent priority in relation to other everyday issues in the workplace, but it demands attention and consideration. 

You’re unlikely to have a crisis happening with your alumni like you might have with sales or marketing or logistics. It's never an urgent thing. So, it usually just never gets touched.

There is a constant flow of people leaving your organisation for a  variety of reasons, and over time, typically, many of them increase in expertise, in experience, seniority, and influence, with the size of their own community.

Organisations that don’t engage with their former employees are missing out on content opportunities, advocacy, ambassadorship, referrals, and those boomerang employees -  people coming back to the company  - as well as the chance to show former employees job opportunities before anybody else.

If they're included in your alumni, they're already somebody who's fitted in well or were a good match from a cultural perspective. A thriving alumni network will help differentiate between good leavers and bad leavers.

People think about leavers and alumni in the same sort of context as when we used to try and grow businesses and have people stay with us for their entire career. But that is not what happens anymore.

Why bring back ex-employees?

Workers leave based upon the best decision for themselves and their family and their careers. That's just how it is. 

And if you valued the contribution they made, and it was a positive impact, then why wouldn't you have them back? Re-hiring people is traditionally 50 per cent cheaper than bringing in new people. 

It is less risky because they already know the organisation; they are going to feel comfortable, and they get up to speed quicker which means they are 40 per cent more productive in their first quarter. It’s also a bit of a morale boost for the staff to see an old face return. Something to be celebrated.

If an alumni community is part of your Employer Brand strategy, it sends a very clear message to managers about the need to maintain a level of professionalism and human empathy and care for people even as they're leaving, because you want people to come back in the not-too-distant future. 

The measure of a successful manager could be in the number of people that are promoted out of their team, not just the results of their team. And that includes going on to leave for a bigger and better role, externally or internally. 

It’s about whether they can support the team in such a way that people progress in their career, and if they leave to get a more senior job elsewhere, that should be celebrated, and managers should be celebrated for the great work that they've done

If people take the next positive career step, gain experience on somebody else's dime, and then feel like they can come back, that's positive all round. 

Not to mention that if you do that the knock-on effect is that it might actually create more space for diversity, equity, and inclusion. More fluidity in organisations that is managed, influenced, and controlled to a degree is just better for business.

The value of an alumni programme

The amount of time, effort, and money you are willing to invest in your alumni programme depends on how much value you place upon your organisation’s reputation and how much you value your people, including those that left.

And it is important to consider what you're willing to do to bring strength to the community. If it's just a list of people, then it's not a community.  It must be about being part of a network that you want to be part of, with connections that you value.

The level of value that you bring, is directly proportional to the benefit you will get back.

If you get a great job and leave, but you love the people you work with and the company, but perhaps you've got a better opportunity somewhere else, and you still have access to learning and development and other benefits - discounts, access to events, networking opportunities and so on - and easy ways to keep in touch with people, chances are you're going to speak well of that organisation and you always will. So, those reviews that people place so much store in can definitely be influenced by your behaviour and actions.

It needs resource to do it effectively. But if you file that under the business case for brand reputation, with an element of recruitment, referral and an element of recruitment marketing, from a testimonial perspective and a content perspective, then the return on investment is clear for everyone to see, 

If you can get some referrals, get some talented and experienced ex-employees boomeranging back, great recruitment marketing content, positive advocacy, and if you can just displace negative reviews on Glassdoor or similar sites, what's that worth to you?

Take a look at an alumni programme we put together for Harrods. The Forever Green and Gold community demonstrates buy-in from senior management and employees at all levels.  Harrods reached out to its alumni to offer invite-only access to a LinkedIn group where users are encouraged to share stories from their experiences of working for the brand and it has even been used to help target staff to boomerang back into the business.

By inviting past employees to share their stories, Harrods has reinforced its excellence as a career catalyst, helping people to take a step onto a career ladder that is rewarding and enjoyable.

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