How To Turn Leavers Into Alumni Ambassadors — and Boomerang Employees!

Posted in Organizational Development

Getting a resignation from an employee can feel like a gut punch. Departing employees often leave a huge hole in the fabric of your team or organizational culture. All the more so if it’s a superstar or linchpin employee, who was an important part of your team.

But a resignation letter doesn’t always have to mean goodbye forever. Good offboarding and engagement practices for former employees can help you turn resigners into alums who are still a big part of your community – and your cheering section. 📣

You may not be able to prevent them from leaving, but if you approach your “alumni employees” as valued members of your larger community, you can leverage their goodwill in support of your remaining employees and your brand – and you might even win them back someday!

This is not just wishful thinking. It’s happening in real time. According to a recent UKG study, four out of 10 people (43%) who quit their jobs during the pandemic and Great Resignation now believe they were better off at their old jobs – nearly 20% of them have already returned to their old companies. In fact, A 2023 article published in Harvard Business Review found that across organizations in a wide range of industries, 28% of “new hires” were actually boomerang hires who had resigned within the last 36 months.

The truth is, not every employee is always thrilled about moving on – even when they’re in the process of leaving. Some leave for opportunities or experiences that are just not yet available with their current employer. Others go because of unrelated life decisions or relocations. Still more are retiring or taking time away from working for education or caregiving. However, 2022 research from Betterworks found that of the people who were actively looking for new jobs, 32% said they always liked working for their company, and 26% said they are still active supporters and would recommend the company to others.

Departing employees often have and will continue to maintain important ties to your company and the people in it. Cultivating and keeping the goodwill of alums can be important for several reasons:

Alumni employees have lots of institutional knowledge. 📚

Keeping alums close to the organization can keep lines of communication open that provide ongoing access to valuable institutional knowledge and experience. This can be useful in guiding existing or new employees and helping the organization maintain continuity.

Alumni employees are still close to your products and mission. 🫶

Leaving a company doesn’t mean you stop believing in the brand. Alumni employees who have a strong connection and sense of loyalty can be an important ongoing resource. Some might continue to work with you as outside contractors, customers, or vendors – others will just be in your corner, talking you up. For example, they might bring you ideas or refer customers. An ongoing commitment to your mission and values can make them go above and beyond for you – even after they are no longer on the official payroll.

Alumni employees are referrers, storytellers, and brand ambassadors. 🗣️

A worker may become a former employee, but can remain a brand ambassador indefinitely. Happy alumni employees often write Glassdoor reviews that attract candidates to the organization.

Alumni employees can still provide networking and support for employees. 💜

Alumni employees often maintain a strong network of contacts and connections within the industry or field. This network can be useful for the organization in terms of business development, fundraising, and partnerships. In addition, alumni employees often continue to serve as formal or informal mentors for your current workers.

Alumni employees can become your boomerang employees. 🪃

When you keep alums close, they can become boomerang employees – or employees who rejoin your organization after spending time somewhere else. Alumni rejoining your company can be a benefit for employers. Returning employees need less training or culture acclimation to get quickly up to speed, and studies show that re-hires are 40% more productive than new hires. Their willingness to return is also tangible proof of your desirability as an employer and a vote of confidence in your organization – proving that the grass most certainly isn’t greener anywhere else.

waving goodbye

All of this CAN be true. Sometimes, however, it is not. As discussed in our recent webinar on offboarding, the #1 moment where employees feel least supported in their employee journey is during their departure. Giving or receiving notice can result in both parties feeling abandoned. At worst, relations between a leaving employee and the organization can quickly become cold, adversarial, or even hostile. This makes an already tough process much harder for everyone involved.

Departing employees often report feeling anxious and sad about leaving their peers and company. Being locked out of the community – or sometimes literally from the building – can negatively impact the projects they leave behind. It can also harm the people left behind – denying them closure or affecting their feelings of affinity and belonging.

Most importantly, a bad offboarding experience can make an otherwise good work tenure feel poisoned or leave employees feeling like they’re disposable or have been “thrown away,” negatively impacting your employer brand and the stories told about you.

Tips For Offboarding: Turning Leavers Into Happy Alumni 😃

Great offboarding helps everyone transition more easily when an employee leaves and results in leavers feeling more positive overall about their experience with a company. To help create this sense of support for departing employees, we love using the same model of the 4-Cs that Dr. Talya Bauer from SHRM has put together for onboarding purposes – Clarification, Connection, Compliance and Culture. This is a terrific way to transition employees into their new future as alumni and turn a goodbye into a see-you-later. Here’s how that looks for offboarding:

Clarification: Manage expectations every step of the way.

  • Provide information for leavers to ensure they have a smooth, supported exit.
  • Offer manager nudges with relevant information and advice for offboarding.

Connection: Stay connected beyond their last day.

  • Send regular messages to your leavers to make them feel they are valued, and to provide a positive farewell experience.
  • Manager nudges to keep the remaining team engaged and productive.

Compliance: Take the hassle out of deprovisioning and paperwork.

  • Ensure all involved stakeholders remain compliant every step of the way.
  • Make sure collecting equipment and services, such as hardware and ID badges, is easy and unemotional.

Culture: Use best-in-class workflow templates to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Use messages, nudges, and facilitated meetings for managers and remaining employees to keep your culture intact and ensure no one is isolated by the departure of a linchpin employee.

After the Offboarding: Turning Happy Alumni Into Powerful Champions

The best offboarding can happen long after exit interviews are over and badges are turned in. The ongoing communications that come after employees leave can not only help everyone transition more easily, but they can also turn alums into lifelong advocates and even boomerang employees.

Stay in touch

Keep your former employees up-to-date and engaged with the latest company news, alumni spotlights, meet-ups, and open positions. You can get started with Enboarder’s pre-built alumni workflow – which is modeled after the best practices in the industry.

Build a tight-knit community

Facilitate connections between alums and their peers in the same way you support current employees – for knowledge exchange and much more. For example, did an employee have mentoring relationships with remaining employees that they’d like to continue? Are there opportunities to invite alums to company events? These are all connections you can encourage to everyone’s benefit.

Encourage referrals and returns

Turn your alumni network into a powerful employer brand and talent acquisition engine by keeping regretted leavers connected, engaged, and inspired. Consider offering rewards to alumni who refer candidates or encourage them to share their experiences at your company. Alums can also serve as a rich resource pool for contract, gig, and consulting work – bringing their deep reservoirs of knowledge back to the organization with them.

Are you looking for more advice and tips on using Enboarder in your offboarding and alumni journeys? Check out our recent webinar: Beyond Onboarding: Offboarding and Alumni Engagement or reach out to our team, today.

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