The Benefits of an Active Corporate Alumni
I had written this article in 2003 when I was considering and then did leave Capital Health in Alberta, Canada. I was struck by the fact that healthcare organizations did such a poor job of creating and maintaining corporate alumni. With the ever present shortages of nurses, doctors, every-other-profession; I thought is strange that Canadian healthcare was so particularly bad at maintain relationships with ex-employees. A google search would suggest that things have not changed much. For example, as a former employee of Capital Health, should Alberta Health Services not be interested in attempting to woo me back to their fold (dear current employer, this is a rhetorical question)?
The original article is here (copyright applies) but the ‘Director’s Cut’ is as follows.
Director’s Notes, March 16-2013: Since writing this in 2004 informal and passive alumnus have received a boost via social media such as facebook.com or linkedin.com. As a result, the entry-level cost of maintaining an alumni has dropped from the six-digits quoted in the article to the price of a Linkedin corporate membership. Nevertheless, and ten years on – it is still interesting that Canadian Healthcare Alumni are still so scarce.
The Benefits of Staying In Touch with Your Ex
What do Ernst & Young and the Lahey Clinic have in common? They both use Corporate Alumni’s to stay in touch with former colleagues. Like their ivy tower cousins, Corporate Alumni fall into one of three flavours, informal, passive and active.
An informal alumnus is what you probably have right now. It is the professional and personal relationships between former employees and the organization. Passive alumni maintain a record of members themselves or through affiliated organizations such as professional associations.
An active Corporate Alumni maintains the bond between the organization and its qualified ex-employees who have left for greener pastures.
Alumni status is extended to individuals who has departed on good terms and agrees to maintain contact post-employment. There must be informed consent to share such private information as current address, email, and particular areas the person wishes to be kept up to date about. Potential benefits of a Corporate Alumni for a healthcare organization include:
- Ambassadors: if your organization is in the news, then likely your ex-employees are being asked their opinion. By giving them the facts up front, they can help to tell your story and assist in your image and brand management.
- Affiliates: Ernst & Young uses its Corporate Alumni to establish sales and supply relationships. While these are important to any healthcare organization, they are critical to your foundations, volunteer department and auxiliaries. Irrespective whether a person is currently active in the labour market, retired or on a family time-out, they may be interested in being a board member, a volunteer, lottery ticket buyer or an active ambassador.
- Friends of Health: You probably give your current staff sneak previews of organizational initiatives such as tours of new clinics or equipment unveiling. Inviting ex-employees lets you stay in touch and lets your alumni enjoy the positive emotional connection of associated with such initiatives.
- Objective 3rd Party: Braver organizations may consider using the alumni to vett ideas, policies or review processes. This is a knowledgeable group, away from the current organizational body-politic who will give you brutally honest answers to questions your active employees may shy away from.
- Re-recruitment: Your Corporate Alumni is doomed to failure if the only reason it exists is to re-hire those that have left. Nevertheless, there is a powerful economic argument for bringing qualified individuals back into the organizational fold.
Steve Richmond from Selectminds.com, a leader in providing corporate alumni infrastructure to organizations, provides some interesting facts. Former employees are cheaper to hire, take less time to become productive and stay longer than first time hires. Considering that a Critical Care Nurse in the US costs on average $26,000 to recruit and may need an extended orientation period, a Corporate Alumni seems to make good sense.
So if Corporate Alumni are so great, why are there not more of them? The answer is three-fold.
1. Healthcare is a Late Adopter
To start, healthcare organizations in Canada tend to be late adopters of new ideas.
2. Healthcare Ethos
Secondly, the emotional bonds between healthcare employees and the clients and patients they serve, creates a corporate culture I call the ‘Healthcare Ethos’.
The ethos is a powerful motivator and creates lasting friendships; the flip side is a sense of betrayal when an individual leaves this closely-knit community. A Corporate Alumni can only be successful with a cultural shift that sees former employees as assets and ambassadors rather than ship jumpers and traitors.
3. Cost and Public Perception
The third and most practical reason for so few Corporate Alumni is money. Setting up an active alumni requires scarce staff, systems and aggressive marketing. Alternatively an organization can outsource these functions to a company such as Selectminds.com. According to Steve Richmond’s very rough estimates, a 5,000 employee organization with about 10% staff turnover can expect to spend $80,000 to $120,000 USD in start up costs and about the same in yearly fees for a world class alumni system.
Getting Started on the Cheap…
Starting with a passive alumni, building in house or extending existing Human Resource Systems are three ways to get started on the cheap. Because most of the start up costs involves security and infrastructure costs, health organization may consider sharing this initial pain by developing umbrella systems with provincial health associations, local governments, pension authorities or other public institutions such as universities.
The ranks of health professionals in Canada are thinning. Re-hiring a known quantity for less money, who produces faster and stays longer can help health organizations managed this risk. Add the benefits of better foundations, volunteers and active community ambassadors and Canadian healthcare may want to join the ranks of Ernst & Young and the Lahey Clinic in establishing its own Corporate Alumni.