Alumni In 5: Measuring Corporate Alumni Engagement

17 min to read
alumniex Author

A quick 5 minutes on some guiding thoughts you might find helpful as you think about how to measure, manage and report on your Alumni Engagement. Highlighting that you have different metrics and reporting measures for yourself as the community leader in the trenches and for your leadership and executive team as you spend the year laying the ground work to increase your team size, technology budget and overall program budget so that you can deliver more events, swag, speakers and opportunities.


Hi, everybody, this is James Sinclair, I’m the CEO of alumni x. And this is alumni and five. And today I want to talk about alumni engagement. And what that means there’s a lot of conversations that people have, whether it’s from the executive board of an organization who are asking for the numbers and the ROI and the benefits of the Alumni Program, and is the investment in the global Alumni Office and the technology platform worth it. But then you also have the engagement conversation from the actual people running the community, the people with their feet in the trenches, who are trying to understand what it means to develop and cultivate a really engaged community, and how they can measure that. And I think that is really important to separate the two conversations around engagement. What is the corporate objectives? Engagement? Is this platform delivering an ROI on the business? And how might we measure that? And then the day to day community engagement? Which is, are my people actually engaged? Are they happy to be here? Are we delivering value? And are we meeting our objectives as a community, not as an organization, so you have two really very different stakeholders, the organization, and the community leader or the community manager, or the person responsible for creating the magical creating the relationship that’s going to drive those organizational goals. One of the big things that I always talk about with customers who are thinking about engagement, and think about what that means is alumni engagement is any touch point of any kind that you have, by an alumni that they willingly take. And it’s important to recognize that’s not how many logins to the platform, how many times they visit the website, it’s any single interaction, if they like a company, post on social media, or amplify an individual’s post from their company on social media or leave a comment, if they open an email, read an article, check you out on Twitter, yes, if they log in, if they engage, if they do something on the website or the platform. Of course, that’s an additional one. But it’s important to recognize that engagement is a global term for have we or has the alumni interacted in any way with our brand, or organization or its people all the way actually a little bit further, that if an alumni has a relationship, a personal one, or a business one with someone in your organization, that’s alumni engagement. And so it’s really important to recognize that you cannot measure Alumni Engagement purely on how many people log in how often they log in, and what do they do when they get there. And the reason is, because an alumni platform is not a day to day platform. It’s not somewhere where people are coming in on a day to day basis, uploading holiday snaps, and chatting with other people. In general, you come to the alumni platform, because you have a purpose or a need or a driver, whether that is an event sent an email, whether that’s looking for someone in the directory, an opportunity, a career move, a contract gig, mentoring, volunteering, discount learning, those are all drivers that can absolutely lead to engagement, but they’re not day to day drivers. So you very rarely find a user who’s coming there, you know, Monday to Friday, and posting content and deeply engaged and alumni community is not that. However, what you do see is alumni communities that extend into things like Slack, or a Google group, or a discord or something similar, where there is active day to day conversations around very specific topics. But it’s generally not the entire alumni alumni community. Generally, it’s perhaps a specific group or subgroup, one of the things that we really promote is allow your alumni to congregate off site, if they want to set up a WhatsApp group just for a select certain number of people around a specific topic or project or opportunity, if they want to jump on a slack or a discord to talk about something. A great example we saw recently, is a company wanting to really facilitate conversations with people who have left who are now startup founders. And a great way to do that was to create a Slack channel and invite all those people interested in the conversation to that. So yes, you have day to day great conversations, great involvement, but that’s just one small element of a broader and larger community. So biggest thing to think about when we started that community piece is really breaking down and thinking about all of the existing touch touch points that your alumni can have with your organization. And what does that mean and how might you measure it? Now with that,

there’s a phrase that I love that I heard recently, which is sometimes the things that count the most won’t be counted. You know, when you’re at an event perhaps or you’re on a zoom with some alumni or doing some something amazing with alumni, and people are laughing and smiling and having a great time, you want to measure that sentiment, and automatically we think our net promoter score or a survey, in reality, you can just see the room is happy, they’re happy to be there. Maybe they share something on social media of positive to your organizational to the event. So again, rolling back Alumni Engagement at the ground floor for the community leaders, it’s really measuring all of those different touch points, and making it really easy for your community to engage with you. You know, one of the things I really believe is not to kind of paywall all your content, you know, when the email goes out with content or stories or opportunities. If it’s not that private, why not place it externally on your alumni platform? You know, why not? Let everybody read it? Why does it just need to be restricted to your alumni. And so the easier you make it for people to engage with your content, the better. And that leads come to a second point around that, which is one of our customers really talks about the fact that every piece of content they create, or generate, or every event they do they really think with someone who’s not an alumni of our organization want to read this and want to engage with it? And if the answer is yes, that’s the benchmark for them releasing it, the content should be valuable to the community at large. Yes, targeted, specifically focused for your alumni. But isn’t it amazing when a non alumni reads an alumni piece of content and is engaged by it and reacts to it? The second is going to be that engagement conversation that we talked about as we go up the chain, into your leadership and into the budget and ROI conversations, where people are going to ask for some very specific metrics. And these are metrics you should know and you should have to hand at all times and you should be able to, to see investigate, deep dive and so forth, kind of trying to find those signals in the noise. You know, the first area that we always talk about with customers is when they talk about their alumni population. It’s not just the number of people that have registered on the alumni platform, or the number of Excel rows you have, because you’re maintaining a you know, manual list, your alumni population is all of the people that have left you. And you know whether you are measuring that on LinkedIn, looking at people’s prior employment or something similar, but you want to have an idea of what is your global alumni population pool look like. And the reason that’s important is if a member of your alumni population that is part of the platform that does share some content shares, something, it’s likely to be seen by alumni that perhaps are not enrolled in, in your platform for whatever reason, they don’t want to they don’t have time, they didn’t know about it, they’re just learning about it. They just left, the key being you need to know your global number. How many alumni do we think we have out there in the world? Have that number? Now we can start thinking, how many do we have on the platform? How might we want to focus our engagement efforts specifically on various sectors. So whether that is regional, whether you’re going to stop and say, right, we’re going to focus on North America, or like some other companies, we’re going to focus on our retirees or other companies, we’re just going to focus on people earlier in their career, because we believe we can give them great access to learning, mentoring and resources. And we can be of best value to early career, people in their, you know, second, third, fourth job, perhaps people who started with with their organization. And so as you start to break out these different groups of people that you want to engage in, you then have your first metric of the global alumni pool out there. How many do we know named? Whether it’s email, whether it’s a LinkedIn group, whether it’s by through network, what percentage do we have access to? And is that a good number? Are we happy with that number?

What is growth look from that number, it’s also really important not to get caught up in the in the obvious one, which is every year, X percent of your organization leaves. So new alumni are always going to be enrolling this number is never going to go down. So it’s important not to kind of hide your engagement numbers based on just natural community growth because someone left this morning. So once you have your global number, once you know the target people or the people you have contact with or whatever that means. Now you can start looking at these secondary numbers. You know, one of the things I ask companies to do is are you tracking how many people are coming back into your organization? We heard recently, Microsoft 15% of their employees are alumni, 12% of city employees, 17% of EY employees. These are really big numbers that you can qualify into real dollars real savings and real ROI statements. But you can also go one step further, which is how many people are referred. So we see a lot of companies out there who are making it easy for their alumni to refer talent. Again, these engagement points, you’re trying to find these specific points that you can put on a paper and measure two different reports. One is the community report, and one is going to be the executive report, your community report is really what’s happening in the ecosystem? What’s our traffic look like? What are people engaging with? What do people care about? How are they coming? Where are they getting stack stuck? What are they need? How are we delivering that value? And what’s happening on a day to day basis for your ability to really drive those trends? The Executive Report is really that nuts and bolts of volume, what is the number we have? And how does that tie to recruiting, to brand to social, to sales to each element of the business, it’s really important, as the leader of an alumni community, to show the impact you’re having on the bottom line, and to show that growth and to make sure you celebrate those wins. So the final section of alumni engagement, is making sure that you are sending out on a semi regular and consistent basis, a celebration, email a report to your stakeholders, to your peers, to your executive team. This is our alumni platform. This is the numbers for this month or this quarter. These are the wins we’ve had, this is why it should be celebrated. This is the financial impact. And the reason that’s so important is because no one is going to celebrate your wins for you. If it’s just you in the Alumni Office high fiving each other because you have a great month. That’s amazing. But how does that impact your ability to get a budget, at the end of the year, a bigger budget at the end of the year? You’ve always got to be thinking, how can I make sure that I’m expanding the team, I have the technology I have the budget to be able to do events I have so that the answer is always going to be yes. And it’s on you to prove that consistently. And you cannot just prove it once a year with a small email cadence program of celebrating your wins. putting them out there. One of the things we saw a company do recently is highlight boomerangs, hey, here are some people that have returned to us, you might recognize their faces, especially if they’re in senior positions, highlighting alumni who have left and gone on to more senior roles in partners, customers, suppliers, showing people in the ecosystem. So that way, when your executive team is looking at your report, they recognize some of the faces, they recognize some of the names and the companies, and they see the impact your organization is having. So I know that was a lot to pack into just a couple of minutes. But when we think about alumni engagement, you really have to think holistically of who are you answering the question for is it for you so you can develop a better program is if your executive team so you can develop or they’ll gain more budget or resources, or is if your stakeholders is if your alumni is Alumni Engagement designed to make sure they can have a better experience. But the key is to break it down by those components and have different reporting strategies for each and a different use of data for each. Again, I know that was a lot to pack in just a couple of minutes. I’m James Sinclair, the CEO of alumni X, and thanks for making time