Alumni Programs: The Antidote to the Great Resignation

Alumni Programs: The Antidote to the Great Resignation

We are in the middle of the Great Resignation where nearly 8 million people left their jobs in April and May after a year where people mostly stayed put. This mass exodus creates an opportunity to engage talent for life by launching an alumni network.


In March, SHRM published the results of a survey indicating that one in four people plan to leave their jobs this year. The movement is being called the Great Resignation or the Turnover Tsunami and is a reaction to largely staying in place throughout 2020. To make sense of this, we can look to Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

ACTION: The COVID-19 pandemic created a medical and financial crisis necessitating a global lockdown the likes of which we had never seen. This sent shock waves through the global labor market. The unemployment rate reached near-record highs as millions of people were forced to leave the workforce. Most of those who still had jobs wouldn’t dream of leaving.

REACTION: As the pandemic recedes, millions of workers have recently changed jobs or are thinking about it. According to the most recent jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.6 million people quit their jobs in May 2021, following the 4 million who did so in April. A new poll indicates that 95% of the workforce are considering a job change. This Turnover Tsunami threatens to swamp many companies and sectors.

How can organizations address this challenge of losing their top talent — right when the economy and their businesses are picking up steam?

In many cases, the same old tactics for trying to convince employees to stay are not going to work — especially as many cite burnout as their reason for leaving. People simply need a change after 12 months or more of lockdown, therefore offering raises and promotions isn’t going to suffice. Just as a vaccine is the best way to fight COVID-19, an antidote to the Great Resignation is also needed.

The answer? Corporate alumni programs. Here’s how creating an alumni network can help protect your business.

Embracing Change as Part of Company Culture

If employees are determined to leave, don’t try to alter their mindset. Accept and embrace their desire for change. Creating a corporate alumni program can be an extremely effective way to do this while maintaining positive connections. In effect, you’re making a statement about your company’s culture:

“We care about our people for the long-term. We know they are not going to stay with us forever, but we want a lifelong relationship with them nevertheless.”

This message is not only heard by your former employees (alumni), but it also has impact on your current employees and job candidates. In fact, many companies leverage their alumni programs with new recruits in addition to rehiring alumni for key positions. Our 2021 Corporate Alumni Benchmarking Report revealed that 62% of companies offer a corporate alumni program to their current employees, and 16% more plan to do so in the future.

Building Brand Ambassadors for Life

In addition to a big culture boost, an alumni program delivers other tangible benefits. A company’s best brand ambassadors are often their alumni, and this often presents itself best on Glassdoor. They also know a lot about the company and its products and services but are no longer on the payroll. Consequently, they have an air of objectivity that current employees and marketing materials simply can’t - which is why alumni are important to your business. Plus, former employees can boomerang back to the company at little or no cost, filling critical roles in record time.

Based on clients’ experience, up to 80% of leavers stay in company ecosystems, and frequently become a significant source of revenue as clients or business partners. Some of the most innovative ideas come from former employees who understand the business and can reduce time-to-market. Lastly, alumni participation in community projects help creates a bigger impact and build lasting bonds.

Letting Employees Know You Care

At first glance, the Great Resignation looks like a major threat to companies of all sizes and industries. But a closer look reveals an opportunity to show employees that they are truly valued by your organization. Although the pandemic placed an increased focus on culture, people have always cared about their work environments.

“Our data over the years has always shown that the thing people care about most is how companies treat their employees,” says Allison Omens, chief strategy officer at JUST Capital, a nonprofit research firm focused on building a strong economy for all Americans.

Creating an alumni program makes a clear, bold statement that you care about your people — while they work there and long after they leave.


Originally written on LinkedIn.

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