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How creating an alumni strategy closes the skills gap

Sharon Florentine | March 16, 2016
Smart companies are looking to their past employees to help drive future success and are actively encouraging boomerangs. Here's how to get your alumni strategy right.

To say the tech job market is competitive is an understatement. Companies are looking for any advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. Some of the smarter companies are actively creating communities of alumni, hoping that many top performers will choose to return to their organization.

A recent informal poll from career management and job search site Monster.com of U.S. workers showed that more than half of respondents say they'd consider returning to a former employer, while 29 percent of people responded that they already had or were currently a "boomerang."

This is great news for employers looking to fill critical IT roles, as boomerangs -- at least those who left in good standing -- don't need as much time for onboarding, are already familiar with a company's technology and culture and can often contribute to productivity much more quickly, says Vicki Salemi, careers expert for Monster.com.

"This says to us that companies are now a revolving door -- and that's a good thing. Rehiring boomerangs decreases our time to fill and our time to onboard. Companies already have 'intel' on former employees, so you can look back and say, 'Oh, this person was wonderful, maybe now they're more senior, or they have new skills or better experience they can contribute here,'" Salemi says.

A July 2015 survey of more than 1,800 HR professionals, managers and employees by research and consulting firm WorkplaceTrends.com in conjunction with The Workforce Institute at Kronos called Boomerang Employees and the Organizations They Once Left shows that while organizations appear increasingly more accepting of boomerang applicants, 80 percent of employees surveyed say their employers do not have a strategy in place to encourage them to return, and 64 percent say there appears to be no strategy for maintaining a relationship after workers leave.

"Technology and social media have made it much easier and more cost effective for businesses to communicate with alumni. Facebook groups, LinkedIn, email newsletters and the like are all free or low-cost ways to maintain that relationship with your former talent," says Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, and a partner and research director of executive development, research and advisory firm Future Workplace.

HR practitioners say they use several strategies for keeping in touch with former high-performing employees; 45 percent of survey respondents use email newsletters, 30 percent frequently reach out through recruiters and 27 percent have formed alumni groups. Facebook is the platform of choice for alumni groups according to 42 percent of HR professionals responding to the survey, with email and LinkedIn close behind at 39 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

If you don't already have an alumni strategy in place, look at how colleges and universities are structuring their alumni networks and take a page from their playbook to get started, Schawbel says.

 

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