Alumni In 5: How To Start A Corporate Alumni Network?

11 min to read
alumniex Author

In this Alumni In 5 episode, alumniEX CEO, James Sinclair provides a quick take on the subject of offering swag to your departing employees or those that join your formal Alumni Network. Mixed views between different community A quick 5 minutes on some guiding thoughts you might find helpful as you embark on a journey to launch a formal Corporate Alumni Program and create a long term relationship with your former employees.

The key to a successful program is to build your Alumni Community, Values, Vision and Offering with your Alumni not for your Alumni. If you include this community of former employees early, listen, engage, share and treat them as a stakeholder they will be more vested in the success of the program.


Hi there. I’m James Sinclair, I’m the CEO of alumni X, the alumni experience platform. And this is your alumni in five. And today, I want to talk about a question I get all the time from organizations, community leaders, which is, I want to start a corporate Alumni Program. I want to start a way for our company to celebrate our employees who have left to maintain a connection to build a community. But that’s such a daunting exercise for a company like ours. Where do I start? And I think when it comes to starting an alumni program, you have to forget technology in totality, forget whether it’s a platform, whether you’re going to use LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp, Excel doesn’t matter. The first thing to think about is, let’s start assembling some people. Some people will say, actually, you have to start with your value statement and your mission statement, why are we doing this? What’s the value? What’s the importance, but a company has one clear advantage with the community, the why why people might join, why people might walk in the door, is because we are celebrating our former employer, we are brought together by a former organization we worked for, it doesn’t mean that’s why they’re going to stay. And it doesn’t mean that’s why they’re going to care. That’s why they’re going to be active. That’s why they’re going to contribute. What it means is you have an opener, similar to if a you know, Canon, why did canon start a community to help people with cameras? Well, people needed help with their cameras, people were drawn there, because they had a question or a thought or needed some help. They stayed there. Because they found it to be a valuable community and they wanted to give back, it’s exactly the same with corporate alumni, people are going to knock on your door and enter the door because of their affiliations, your organization, they’re going to stay because you deliver them something great. So when it comes to where do I start, I always say start with the basics, start assembling a few people, a couple of people that you want to reach out to still maintaining a list, it might be Excel, it might be in MailChimp, it might be somewhere, it might be a LinkedIn group, you start for a lot of organizations, they already have a LinkedIn group that was founded by some guy or gal that left the company 20 years ago, start your own official one and start inviting some people in there, maybe start putting a little bit of content in there, maybe send out an email every couple of weeks, couple of months. The key being on the question of where do you start? Anywhere you want, just take the first step. The other thing you have to think about when taking that first step is you have to look inwards to your organization, what first steps might I take, as a community leader, maybe you’re in HR, maybe you’re in sales, maybe you’re in brand, maybe you’re in comms wherever you are, so that when someone leaves, they are invited to this concept of staying in touch. So where else could you start? Very simply, when people leave the organization, if they are eligible, whatever that might mean, maybe they get a nice email saying, Hey, we would love to get your personal email address and stay in touch. That’s it. Now you can start building this list of people and emails that you can communicate with. So three functional steps, I think really helped programs get off on the first off the ground. So well. One is something and offboarding immediately today that collects the external email address, there’s no reason not to grab that. And for some companies that don’t have corporate off boarding or formal off boarding programs, you can put it into your manager off boarding program, have the manager ask have the manager then put that email into a form or somewhere similar, start collecting data immediately. The second is think about what you might have to offer some of these people. Maybe it’s nothing more than you liking and commenting on your alumni, when they post on LinkedIn that they’re leaving, you know, you see that all the time. You know, today’s my last day at this company has been seven years and they give the roll call of all the people they’re so appreciative of, wouldn’t it be amazing if right under that post, there was you? Thank you so much for everything you did for this organization. We wish you the best of luck. You know, good luck, stay in touch. Wouldn’t it be a nice touch not only for the person who made the post, but every single person who sees that comment, this is Wow, their former employer, just wish them luck on their new journey.

What a great way to create brand value and to show you’re a great organization. So number one, jump something into offboarding. Number two, start something on socials. Again, no Excel spreadsheet, no platform, no nothing. You’re just starting to very, very generally engage and as an organization or an individual, celebrate the people that have left. The third is to start doing something. And that might be a small local event, it might be getting a small group of alumni together for a lot of new organization starting alumni program, one of the best recommendations I have is build your program with your alumni, not for your alumni. Reach out to some alumni, we’re thinking of building an alumni program, we’d love you to be part of the founding committee, the steering committee, what does that entail? Every month, I’d love to have an hour of your time alongside with some other colleagues to discuss what we’re thinking, what we’re planning and how we’re going to do it. When you build your community with your alumni, there are two major advantages you’ll find. Number one, when you go live with whatever you go live with, you will have people who have a vested interest in its success, a group of people who will want to amplify it, who will want to invite people and wanted to be successful. And the second is you’ve had a seat at the table with the alumni, you’ve built and delivered something a community a program that can deliver value to them. So you’re not just launching, hey, we start an alumni program. Here’s some news. And we’re going to badger you every week with more news about more company news. Instead, let your alumni have a seat at the table. It is the greatest launch strategy to get a vested interest so that as you build this, you’re building up a list. There’s a lot of programs that we’ve launched, where by the time they’re ready to go live, they have an email list of three, four or 500 people who all know it’s coming. So when it goes live, they get to send out this blast saying thank you for being part of this journey. Thank you for your insights, hey, we’re live? Will you like this on LinkedIn? Will you share this on Twitter, and you’ve got 345 100 People who are willing to because you’ve taken them on the journey, the biggest failure we see with a lot of programs is keeping everything a secret, organizing everything inside the office, and not allowing your alumni to be on the journey with you. And if you fundamentally do that you will have a mailing list, you will have a network, but you won’t have an engaged community. So I think for many organizations who are struggling to understand where to start, start by talking to one person, how might this alumni program be of value to you? Start by commenting on one post, start by adding one thing to offboarding. Take these incremental steps, then when you’re ready to scale, that’s when you move to a platform like illuminate YECs that’s when you start thinking to yourself, how can I do this in bulk? I want to email all people in North America, I want to send this job to all women engineers in the United Kingdom. I want to offer this eLearning to all people who are early in their career. I want to offer volunteering to these people in Asia that have marked themselves as interested mentoring all of these topics. They come a little bit later. But start with a good foundation. And again, the biggest advice I can give is let your alumni be part of the building of this platform, part of the journey, part of the experience. So by the time it goes live by the time it develops, it’s not day one. It’s month six. Again, I’m James Sinclair from alumni YECs thanks for taking the time.