By ZoomInsights staff

You might think you’ve left no stone unturned as you search for the best and brightest candidates. But according to Jacelyn Swenson, manager of community-based social business marketing initiatives for IBM, you might have overlooked a very valuable resource. At a talk Swenson gave at the ERE Expo in the fall of 2012, she stressed the importance of cultivating relationships with former employees.

The alumni advantage

Who knows your company better than a former employee? Almost no one. These alumni know your products and services, your company culture and what you’re looking for in an employee, Swenson said. This is why they are such an important part of your recruiting eco-system. Happy former employees are, perhaps, second only to current employees when it comes to the value of their candidate referrals.

Your company invested in those people, and they can continue to be an asset even after they have moved on. But to cultivate your relationship with company alumni, you must manage a larger process. It starts with making sure your exiting employees are taken care of when they move on to new opportunities, and continues long after they are gone.

“If recruiting is a goal, then you may want to consider appealing to your former employees and encourage them to share information with their professional and personal networks,” Swenson told ZoomInsights. “However, the message needs to be clear, the steps need to be easy and the system needs to be set up in order to generate and capture response.”

But it isn’t just the networks of your former employees that you’ll want. Sometimes you’ll want to rehire employees you lost. According to an Inc. article by Issie Lapowsky, “There's no recruitment method more cost- or time-efficient than rehiring reliable former employees.” Not only do you know what to expect from those employees, they return to productivity much faster than the average hire.

Cultivating the alumni relationship

As with any relationship, the ones you have with your alumni need to be two-way streets. It isn’t all about having your needs met. “In order for the community to be successful, it must create value for its members, as well as the company. So keep that in mind,” Swenson said.

No fear, though, because in the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to nurture the connection. Swenson has a few recommendations for companies of all sizes looking to start an alumni relations program:

  • Create a strong business case and objectives and identify clear benefits to the company and your alumni.
  • Define the target community and their needs.
  • Determine if an existing platform or social networking site best serves your needs. Make sure the platform you use (whether internal or external) has a process for registration and data maintenance and a user-friendly, globally-integrated interface. Keep in mind the type of content (articles, infographics, images, photos, video, etc.) that works best with each channel.
  • Promote participation across the entire employee lifecycle.
  • Engage alumni to tweet, blog, post links to articles and videos.

Ultimately, by sharing your knowledge and resources with alumni, you’ll keep them engaged with your company and turn them into brand advocates. And even if you don’t lure them back, you can leverage their networks to win the war for the best talent.

If you’ve lost track of any valuable former employees, look them up on ZoomInfo Pro so you can re-engage them. ZoomInfo Pro has detailed profiles of 65 million businesspeople and 6 million companies. Learn more.
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