Why Former Staff Members Might Be Your Greatest Brand Asset

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The Great Resignation continues to fuel trends in the workplace, and one of those recently uncovered is a certain amount of regret. A USA Today Harris poll found that about a fifth of professionals who left their jobs now want to return to them (or at least to previous companies). In many cases, if able, these boomerang individuals will return with greater experience, expanded skills, and new perspectives. Wouldn’t it be nice if such alumni were welcomed and included in growth strategies…if they had a dynamic platform to share newfound skills?

Every successful business knows that its people are one of its greatest assets, but many don’t realize that that value doesn’t have to end when people leave home. In fact, an alumni community is an important resource that you are most likely underinvesting in. It’s the only group of people associated with your organization that’s guaranteed to grow forever, and by nurturing your members and nurturing valuable post-employment relationships, you can dramatically improve employer branding.

Why is employer branding important?

Employer branding is your company’s “word on the street” – the “outside-in” perspective of everything an organization stands for. Before candidates apply for jobs with you, they take the temperature of your employer brand by snooping around online and talking to their network. This way they know what to expect and whether they should apply for open positions.

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And you can be sure that your alumni will help make an impact on this brand. They tweet about their experiences. They leave Glassdoor reviews and answer questions about what the culture is like when no one is looking. So if you treat them like old friends instead of outcasts, you both win in multiple ways.

Related: 5 signs your employer brand is in trouble

The sweet side of goodbyes with a good note

Most of us have experienced terrible business disruptions. They left us stressed, worried and maybe angry. As a result, we look back through a negative lens.

On the other hand, some of us have been fortunate to be encouraged to keep going to improve our careers. We’ve had bosses who are happy for us when we get opportunities and even keep in touch. They don’t hold grudges, which leads us to have more affection or affinity for an organization that treats people with such respect and pays dividends for employer branding.

Nurturing an alumni community can also contribute to diversity. Companies are often so concerned about retention and turnover that they forget how long employees have been in the workforce. The coming and going of individuals ensures more spaces open up to be filled with diverse candidates who have specific and dynamic skills.

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Follow these steps to future-proof your business now:

1. Appreciate people without strings attached

A consistent formula for success includes proving that people are valued unconditionally. First, recognize and appreciate the team members. Help them do their best work because the opportunity to share individual talent is what 58% of people told Gallup would want for their next job.

Also, make sure your brand is guided by a purpose and help employees contribute to it. People expect their employers to behave and act with a people-first mindset while upholding actionable core beliefs. So make sure you show meaning, purpose and ethics. Talented people will say goodbye from time to time, but they will only have good things to say afterwards.

2. Make leaving a good thing

Changing jobs doesn’t have to be filled with negativity. It can be healthy. At McKinsey, for example, a mentality is encouraged in which most employees find themselves expected to fly. Because of this philosophy, there is less concern about churn as employer branding is both strong and well known.

So instead of trying to hold on to people, rethink that approach and avoid making terminations taboo. Using this method, you’ll likely have more Boomerang employees flocking to your door because they realized the grass wasn’t greener elsewhere. You may also notice that your employer brand sentiment is starting to rise on social media. Either way, appreciating everyone, including your alumni, pays off.

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3. Create and maintain an alumni community

Alumni communities often see themselves as part of an elite group. Many are so proud to be alumni that they share their experiences on social media. Fortune 500 companies got this message because 98% of them have corporate alumni programs, according to Enterprise Alumni. However, small and medium-sized businesses have generally not yet recognized the powerful nature of these communities.

Your company could easily be among the first in your industry to extend benefits to alumni through strategic initiatives. For example, you can publish an alumni-only e-newsletter that contains relevant and engaging content and/or set up related events that are fun and/or educational. It’s about making your business enrich people’s lives, even if they’re no longer on the payroll.

Related: How companies like Facebook can improve their reputation as employers

Laying the foundations for a strong and unique alumni community connected to an employer brand and branding strategy can be one of the smartest ways to future-proof an organization, so make yours as solid as possible. At the same time, you want to make sure you’re keeping up with all related initiatives, including DEI and scaling plans. The support of your alumni can help you do all that and more.

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