"What works for colleges and universities can work for businesses, too. While educational institutions focus on groups of people who were in the same graduating year, fraternities and sororities, majors, extracurricular activities, companies can focus on departments, skills, even people who attended the same training sessions -- the possibilities are endless," Schawbel says.
Using email groups and social media is an obvious place to start. LinkedIn and Facebook are great platforms for creating groups where alumni can share career successes, news, events and personal information, says Schawbel.
"Businesses need to leverage these tools and see them as a pipeline. Forming these communities can ensure you have a whole bunch of 'warm leads' in the event a position opens up. And for candidates, even passive candidates, it's just good business sense to keep up with these relationships," he says. Even if you're not interested in returning to a former employer, perhaps a former co-worker's connections and expanded network can help you land your dream job, he says.
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An email newsletter or, if budget allows, a physical magazine or brochure can be a great way to keep in touch with company alumni, too, says Salemi. The trick is to make sure you're consistent with distribution; sending monthly or quarterly with updates on events, new initiatives, corporate philanthropy and volunteer work and open positions will help keep your company top-of-mind for former employees, she says.
"Make sure you're keeping up with posts in online groups, make sure you're mailing a newsletter or a magazine out on time. Sticking with that shows a lot of investment and that you genuinely care about engaging and building those communities. It's very similar to a recruiting strategy, in that you want to make people feel valued, whether or not they work there anymore," Salemi says.
An alumni or boomerang strategy can also be a way to generate referrals, Salemi says. Monster.com data shows that 20 percent of hires are through employee (or former employee) referrals, and that those hires tend to be higher-quality. With a well-established alumni strategy, it can be simple to reach out and ask, 'Who do you know that might be a good fit?' she says.
"You should look at everyone who works and who worked for your company as a loyal, lifelong friend to the company. Even if they don't want to come back -- yet -- it can be a great way to expand the network of potential candidates. Companies really need to see the value in this kind of networking," Salemi says.
If you're truly doubling down on an alumni/boomerang strategy, consider inviting former employees to in-person events, Salemi says. Whether you're including them in a yearly company picnic, inviting them to hear a speaker or to participate in a job fair, that in-person experience can be really valuable.
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