Good HR practices: The power of alumni networking in business

Published: November 25, 2019 12:12:10 AM

Companies struggle in finding exceptional talent that is culturally-compatible. High performers who have left with the best handshakes can provide excellent references for talented candidates.

It’s fine for employees to seek fresher pastures in work content or compensation. (Representational image)It’s fine for employees to seek fresher pastures in work content or compensation. (Representational image)

By Paul Dupuis

This legend founded the iconic Apple, only to find himself contentiously forced out of his company. Twelve years later, however, he bounced back to lead Apple as CEO, and raise the company from near bankruptcy to unprecedented success.

This sports icon won three straight professional basketball championships with the Chicago Bulls. Soon after, he hung up his basketball gear to play minor league baseball. The transition failed and he returned to the team in two years to win three consecutive championship titles.

We could name them Steve Jobs and Michael Jordan. We could say boomerang employees, comeback kids, or corporate alumni. Call them whatever, they represent a powerful reality in the workplace. There is tremendous value by maintaining healthy relationships with high-performers even after they leave the organisation.

Assets, even if they leave
Making employees feel that they make a meaningful difference is vital for their continued engagement. High-performing organisations make it an integral part of their culture. It should come as no surprise that the habit of maintaining a respectful relationship with alumni employees can inspire powerful commitment—both inside and outside the company.

McKinsey shows us how. Their former associates and partners are some of their most profitable clients. They have ensured that the ‘post-McKinsey avatar’ multiplies impact and outcomes for both partners and themselves. It is a lesson of how to authentically invest in ex-employees.

Companies struggle in finding exceptional talent that is culturally-compatible. High performers who have left with the best handshakes can provide excellent references for talented candidates.

To rehire, or not?
Hiring comeback employees can be a veritable gold standard practice. It speaks highly of an organisation’s openness to explore the best options without bias. It demonstrates respect for diversity of experience and talent. And it is a morale-booster for existing high performers as to how they could be treated.

Sure, the decision to take back former employees is not an open-and-shut case. It requires careful thinking—but without prejudice, for or against. So, when an ex-employee boomerangs for rehire, let us look at the situation like Janus—looking to both the future and the past.

Why did they leave earlier? It’s fine for employees to seek fresher pastures in work content or compensation. That’s what organisations do, so do not grudge your high performer for doing so.

How did they perform in their earlier stint? Did they show the potential to add value to their role, team and the organisation? How compatible were their individual values to the company culture?
Are they the talent you are really looking for? Easy is not always the best. If they are not the best fit, or if there is no role that matches their refurbished expertise, it’s better to give a pass. A candid and respectful discussion can help settle this issue.

The formula for creating alumni ambassadorship is simple. Give your existing employees reasons enough to stay. And if they leave, give them more reasons to want to come back.

The author is MD & CEO, Randstad India

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