Part of every individual’s career journey inevitably involves leaving companies. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, packing up and moving out can even be a healthy and strategic step for both employees and companies. It’s part of a growth mindset.
Depending on the company and the employee and, importantly, the timing of it all, there’s sometimes just not enough room to move into a growth role. So, like the crab which sheds its exoskeleton because it’s growing too big for the ‘home’ it has created, employees sometimes voluntarily leave a company in order to find or build a bigger space for themselves and their careers.
But, importantly, packing up and moving on does not need to mean a total cutting of ties between the company and the employee. Many alumni leave to pursue individual entrepreneurship, to launch an innovative startup, to take on leadership in another organization, or to enter into a new chapter of life where they prioritise volunteer activities, mentorship, and life-long learning.
Corporations gain diverse benefits from creating alumni networks
Many organisations actively keep in touch with their alumni to create new business opportunities. Others stay in touch with their alumni for talent acquisition purposes, and actively re-hire their alumni, thus bringing them back into the company fold with all of their new talents.
But there’s one other top reason that organisations create an alumni community: it increases brand ambassadorship.
Accenture’s Alumni Network is driven by brand ambassadorship
At Accenture, a Global Fortune-500 company, brand ambassadorship is the driving force behind their alumni program.
In July 2021, I spoke with Daniela Martinez (Global Off-Boarding and Alumni Experience Lead) and Aluminé Poblete (HR Career Management & Transitions Analyst) of Accenture, who shared insights about Accenture’s Alumni Network and why they’ve designed their alumni experience to be one of the best.
Accenture’s research across corporations had already revealed that over 65% of former employees affirm that they would join an alumni network if their organisation offered one to them. This is one of many reasons why Accenture was one of the first corporations to create an alumni program (following in the footsteps of the pioneering Microsoft Alumni Network in 1995.)
But an alumni program isn’t just about offering employees something that they want (though, as we’ll see as the story unfolds, Accenture is also motivated by a genuine desire to stay connected with past employees and to equip them with tools to succeed.) A corporate alumni program is ALSO a strategic move for the company: it can be built and designed to give alumni a lasting and positive connection with the company, and thus allow the company to reap the many tangible benefits of brand ambassadorship.
Brand ambassadorship affects new talent acquisition and re-hires.
It’s now more important than ever to ensure that employees have a positive impression of the company because current employees’ and alumni’s impressions will affect prospective employees’ desire to join the organization. “Here’s the thing about millennials and younger generations more broadly,” Daniela succinctly explained, “they talk.”
Specifically, employees talk to each other about their experiences within a company: they’ll write their thoughts on personal social media, on business platforms like LinkedIn, and they’ll either sing the praises or spill the dirt of their (ex-) company via review sites like Glassdoor, which lead to roughly 10% of job interviews. And all of these ‘word-of-mouth’ reviews matter because 92% of individuals are going to trust their peers, rather than a company spokesperson.
“Younger generations move with fluidity from company to company,” Daniela continued to explain, “…staying in contact and in good relation helps both the employee and the company. ”
Daniela also spoke about the need to stay in touch with alumni to increase their brand ambassadorship. She explained that this is especially important for talent acquisition. Over 40% of Millennials report that they are open to returning to a former employer, and the average Fortune-500 company can save $12 million/annually by actively recruiting their alumni.
Accenture integrates its Alumni program into the Employee Exit experience
To create and sustain a good impression on all exiting employees, no matter their reason for exiting, Daniela and her team responsible for Offboarding and Alumni Experience ensure that they are a part of the employee exit experience. This way, all exiting employees receive the best possible experience, thereby allowing Accenture to leave the best possible impression.
Daniela explained, “We work side by side with our exit team. we want our leavers to know that their last working day is just a farewell and a celebration but we definitely plan to keep in touch.” This sentiment is perfectly aligned with Accenture’s motto behind their Alumni Network: “because moving on doesn’t mean missing out”.
Like many companies, Accenture had to respond to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in company downsizing. They wanted to put alumni experiences at the centre of their care. Helping people get back to work quickly was their priority.
Accenture’s mantra: “let’s help people get back to work quickly”
In order to help their alumni get back to work quickly, Accenture focused on two things:
- “Out-skilling”: You’re probably more familiar with terms like “up-skilling” or “re-skilling,” both of which are targeted to current employees. But, as employees exited the company, Accenture decided to create “out-skilling”. They offered 6 months of free subscription to an online training site so that exiting employees could advance their skills. Impressively, 15% of leavers utilised this offer.
- Targeted Webinars: Accenture developed webinar offerings for their alumni to maximise career opportunities, to develop new skills and to be job-ready for the next opportunity. The webinars were extremely well received and attended, with an average satisfaction rate of 90%.
All exiting employees are valued by and valuable to the company
Midway through my call with Daniela and Aluminé, I had a pressing question on my mind (which may also be on your mind!): “how does Accenture justify putting its resources into employees who are leaving…many of whom will never even come back?” After all, it’s one thing to strategically invest in the alumni who the company knows it wants to re-hire…it’s a whole other thing to invest resources in those who will never come back.
Daniela and I shared the sentiment that such feel-good actions are worthwhile even if they do not tangibly increase ROI but, most interestingly, Daniela was able to share the business value behind this decision. Once again, the business value came from the value embedded within brand ambassadorship.
A company like Accenture, with so many young employees and continuing to attract talented employees who will first scrutinise Accenture’s company culture based on reviews of past employees, really cares about social listening. They care about what employees think, how they felt, and thus reflect on how to best improve the employee experience. Accenture knows that positive outcomes from an employment brand perspective will translate into higher hiring and rehiring figures.
Thus, Accenture values its exiting employees because Accenture knows without any doubt that alumni (and their opinions!) are also valuable.
Knowing this value, Accenture does what it can to set its exiting employees up for success. In addition to the two recently introduced tactics that I mentioned above, Accenture goes so far as to allow third-party job ads on their company website. The justification for this? To help all their alumni, regardless of the reason for leaving, be part of the Accenture extended career ecosystem. Accenture fosters a culture of career opportunities and wants its people to be at their best and be an enabler of their career development and growth.
Brand ambassadorship leads back to re-hires
Knowing the value that rehires (also called boomerang employees) add to a firm, Accenture set annual ambitious rehiring targets, and impressively, this year they achieved a 10% rehiring rate. In other words, Accenture is decisively good at re-hiring, something that a well-designed alumni program definitely helps with. And they are equally focused on alumni experience.
Daniela affirmed, “Accenture is great at scale right now…we can bring back our alumni and offer interesting webinars and benefits in a standard way…but we want to be great at personalisation, too. A great, personalised employee experience from start to finish, and into the alumni experience, is our North Star.”
If you are interested in developing an employee or alumni community, or if you simply want guidance on how your company can improve the overall experience of your current community, book a free strategy session with our consulting team.