There are 118,000 corporate alumni LinkedIn groups, including 98 percent of the Fortune 500s. LinkedIn is a phenomenal way for institutions to, with a simple email blast, invite their former employees to stay connected. What’s more, the company logo gets slapped right on all the members’ profile pages. Free marketing!]
But while LinkedIn is many things, it is not a great forum for large groups to network in a meaningful way. You can conduct searches within the group but you can’t really engage with the search results in a way thats relevant to you. Joining a group on Linkedin is valuable but how does one connect when there are thousands within the one group?
With Millennials set to hold 12-15 jobs in their lifetimes, and the cost of re-hiring a former employee 1/3 to 2/3 the cost of hiring anew, corporations around the globe are realizing the importance of leveraging their alumni networks. Gone are the days when leaving a company is a strike against you; now it’s, “Sure, go out and acquire additional skills, contacts and experience on someone else’s dime, and then come back.”
Many companies do recognize the value of their alumni as recruiters, referrals, new business opportunities, corporate intelligence officers and brand ambassadors. Some even have a dedicated Alumni Director. And fewer still have built a technology platform to host their alumni networks. One such company is Citigroup. KonnectAgain CEO and Co-Founder Jayne Ronayne recently interviewed Citi’s Director of Alumni Relations, Andrea Legnani, who calls alumni engagement “a real win/win opportunity …the results completely justify the efforts and resources that we have devoted to the initiative.” He continues, “corporations should consider alumni a valuable asset and important stakeholders.” His biggest piece of advice? “Do it right from the beginning! And be consistent over a long period of time. … It must not be the flavor of the moment that is soon forgotten. Once you launch the initiative you need to hit the ground running and keep the pace! This entails a solid organization, an enthusiastic and talented team, adequate funding and a robust IT platform as a backbone.”
Check out below for the full interview, including why and how Citi engages their former employees. Click here to learn more about how KonnectAgain is reinventing alumni relations as we know it.
Q: Do you believe that it’s important to engage with your alumni through the social media portals such as LinkedIn and Facebook?
A: We consider social media to be a natural extension of our own platform, a global arena where you can let alumni know of the network’s existence and allow an open, two-way conversation. In order to complement these digital efforts, we built our own platform as the primary venue for connecting with our alumni.
Q: Why does Citi find it valuable to stay connected with their alumni and vice versa?
A: There are several benefits on both sides. In addition to being able to reconnect with former colleagues around the world, our alumni have access to many benefits – from free passes to museums, sports events, interesting cultural events, art tours, travel agency, and discounted products and services, among others. Through the Citi Alumni Network, members can also receive relevant Citi news, read newly-released Citi research, find out about job opportunities at Citi, learn about networking events in their area, and join Citi employees for volunteering and charitable events. On the other side, we encourage brand ambassadorship among the alumni community, which opens the door for quality referrals both in recruitment and business, builds a stronger employment brand, and strengthens the sense of connection for current employees. A real win/win opportunity!
Q: When was your alumni network established and what was the goal behind setting an alumni network up?
A: We decided to launch the Citi Alumni Network in connection with our 200th anniversary in 2012. We officially opened the website to alumni registrations in four pilot countries, and today we cover 78 nations across the globe. Our goals are (and remain): encourage ambassadorship, enable alumni networking, create ongoing relationships with employees, and thank those who contributed to our firm along the way. We have had success in almost all of them, but with such a vast development plan, we continue to look for ways to enhance opportunities!
Q: How has your alumni network developed over the past four years?
A: When we decided to launch a structured alumni organization, we had never done something like this before, and we didn’t really know if the idea would be well received by alumni. So it took us some experimenting and feedback. After four years, I can say we are confident we took the right decision and the results completely justify the efforts and resources that we have devoted to the initiative.
Q: Where do you see the future of alumni relations in the corporate market?
A: Corporations should consider alumni a valuable asset and important stakeholders. In many cases, they remain as clients, and they can act as a credible sounding board when appropriate. Furthermore, the larger the company, the larger the need to recruit in a job market that is becoming more and more competitive. In this environment, alumni can be an active pool of talent from which to draw. But, again, it is a question of doing it in the right way: the benefits for alumni must be tangible.
Q: What advice would you give to an institution who is just starting to build their alumni network?
A: Do it right from the beginning! And be consistent over a long period of time. It takes on average about five years to build a solid alumni initiative. It must not be the flavor of the moment that is soon forgotten. Once you launch the initiative you need to hit the ground running and keep the pace! This entails a solid organization, an enthusiastic and talented team, adequate funding and a robust IT platform as a backbone.