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Corporate alumni networks have been our focus from day one, starting more than 10 years ago. In fact, we live and breathe corporate alumni programs so that we can share our knowledge with you.

What benefits can organizations receive from Alumni Programs? Conenza and Cornell University weigh in with ground-breaking research

Data drives good decisions. That’s why Conenza surveys Alumni Program managers every year in our benchmarking report to find out what’s working well and where they see challenges in their efforts to engage employees for life. Results from the survey shape strategies for Alumni Programs to enhance the value they provide organizations for key business drivers such as brand advocacy, business development and talent acquisition.

But what about the alumni members of these programs? What are their motivations for staying connected to former employers? To find out, Conenza partnered with two researchers from Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations (ILR) to answer two important questions:

  1. What can organizations anticipate receiving from alumni?
  2. Why do alumni participate in Corporate Alumni Programs?

The research supported Rebecca Paluch’s dissertation as a PhD candidate at the ILR School. We’re happy to report she successfully defended her dissertation and is now Dr. Rebecca Paluch.

While there is plenty of research that examines the impact of organizational structures on employees, Paluch discovered unanswered questions about the relationship between employees and their former employers. Dr. Lisa Nishii, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at the ILR School served as the faculty advisor.

Results support the need for Alumni Programs

Findings from the joint research strongly indicate that Corporate Alumni Programs provide meaningful impact and are key to driving certain strategic initiatives. Greater alumni involvement in program offerings was consistently associated with increasing returns to the organization. In other words, as members use more of the offerings provided by the Corporate Alumni Program, they are more willing to advocate and interact in ways that are beneficial for the organization. From the alumni’s perspective, they need to feel like they are getting value out of the benefits to validate their participation.

Increased alumni usage leads to greater company value

The research revealed that engagement with just one additional alumni benefit, such as an online Corporate Alumni Program portal, alumni newsletter, webinars and in-person events, increased an alumni’s likelihood to recommend:

  • the company’s products and/or services up to 32%
  • the company as a place to work up to 29%
  • the company’s Corporate Alumni Program up to 51%

The research also measured the impact of increased alumni usage of just one benefit on other important interactions with the organization. Alumni reported increases of:

  • up to 47% to apply to be rehired
  • up to 22% in doing contract or freelance work
  • up to 42% in developing new business-to-business relationships
  • up to 26% for providing industry information or insight
  • up to 40% in being a mentor

All the alumni networks in the study offered at least 10 alumni benefits. In many cases alumni reported they were not aware of all the benefits available to them from their former employers, highlighting the need for proactive communication from Corporate Alumni Programs and meaningful alumni engagement. There is definitely room for improvement in utilization of Corporate Alumni Programs.

Well-designed Corporate Alumni Programs create win-win

The research uncovered four primary motivations for alumni to want to maintain a lifelong relationship with a former employer:

  1. Career-minded – the ability to enhance their careers or businesses
  2. Social-focused – the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues
  3. Mission-driven – the desire to support the organization’s purpose
  4. Pragmatic – the interest in benefits, discounts and perks

By understanding the underlying alumni demographics (who they are) and their motivations for joining the Alumni Program (the why), companies can design a Corporate Alumni Program that delivers on the alumni needs. When this happens, the research consistently showed a strong positive link to an increased willingness of alumni to provide measurable value to the Corporate Alumni Program sponsor as noted above.

Alumni across all Corporate Alumni Programs, regardless of the varying alumni motivations, consistently ranked three alumni benefits as most valuable:

  1. Alumni newsletter
  2. Alumni software platform
  3. Individualized emails

Value derived from the three benefits have the strongest correlation with the likelihood of alumni recommending the organizations products and/or services and the alumni network.

About the research

Between May 2018 and January 2019, surveys were distributed to alumni in a variety of alumni networks from different industries including management consulting, telecommunication and media, software, and non-profit. The survey fielded 1,861 responses from locations around the globe.

For Alumni Managers, this new research is valuable to show leadership how and why Alumni Programs provide ongoing value to the organization over the long-term.

To learn more about the Conenza and Cornell University research, including a deeper dive into the demographics of the respondents, watch a presentation of the research results by Tony Audino, CEO of Conenza and Dr. Rebecca Paluch from Cornell University click here.  To download a copy of the full research report click here.