Sound counter-intuitive? My upcoming book The Boomerang Principle is predicated on the idea that organizations that “allow and encourage former employees to return have a strategic advantage over those that don’t.”
Why? Because a company that is good or easy to return to is hard to leave. All that is packed into that statement – positive culture, high performance, the intersection of strong personal brands and great talent brands – is enhanced when former employees are honored for their contributions during their tenure and their achievements after they leave.
When you honor your former employees, you are reinforcing the value of the experience you offer as an employer. You are becoming a good place to be from – a critical business advantage in an era when employees do not expect to stay long in a position or company. Becoming and then acknowledging that your organization is an important weigh station in a career does not diminish the company’s reputation, it enhances it, and helps drive so many positive dynamics – most of which translate right to the bottom line. More on that in the future.
Showcasing Former Employee Contributions
Of course, this notion of showcasing or honoring a former employees’ contributions to your current situation or achievements since they left you, flies right in the face of a dominant “you’re dead to me” attitude so many people and organizations hold for their former employees. Now is the time to eradicate this notion and the resulting negative impact this attitude has on your current employees.
Your teams know how their former colleagues did (or did not) contributed during their tenure and their impact on the team, a project or the culture. If your employees know that their work and effort won’t be appreciated after they leave, you are undermining any attempts you’re making to demonstrate appreciation while they’re still employed. This leads to inefficiency, which drives down profit. I’ve talked about the bottom-line importance of appreciation as part of a company culture here and here: it’s been measured – it matters.
- Detailing a person’s specific achievements and contributions in the departure announcement
- Publicly acknowledging a former colleague’s impact on a project when it is finished, e.g. “I also want to recognize that Joe Smith’s work on this project when he was here, gave us a great foundation to complete the work.”
- Thanking the former employee in absentia for a strong transition, e.g. “Before Jane left, she made sure the team was well set up to continue the project without disruption – I really appreciate her effort to make her transition as painless as possible for us.”
This public appreciation for a former employee’s contribution and long term impact for work done while employed goes an incredibly long way in building trust and strong relationships. For current employees, this practice reinforces their own value as a team member, contributor, employee; by demonstrating a commitment to acknowledging contributions over the long-term, and not only during employment, organizations build incredible goodwill, and good will translates right to the bottom-line.
Good Will Translates Right To The Bottom-Line
Honoring Alumni Employees
Robert Glazer, CEO of Acceleration Partners, an Inc 500 performance marketing company, been a big inspiration for me, and so many others. He is constantly learning and applying wisdom to his business, and then sharing that experience with others so they too can benefit from AP’s knowledge. You can subscribe to his Friday Forward missive here – it’s great Friday reading.
AP subscribes to the right person, right seat, right time principle Jim Collins articulated so well in Good to Great. Part of that is recognizing when a colleague’s best opportunity to do the work they want to do and advance their career in the direction they want to go may not be with you. Bob shares here in an “Alumni Spotlight” how AP was able to place a great employee at a different company, Apple, for the right position for that employee by, among other things, writing a recommendation for his current employee.
“The letter of recommendation that Bob sent to Apple on Daniel’s behalf was so glowing that one of the interviewers told Daniel, ‘I wanted to see for myself why Bob wrote you such a great letter of recommendation!’”
AP publicly shares these stories to demonstrate their culture. And as a result AP has created a cadre of former employees ready and willing to bend themselves backwards to help AP.
Creating an Army of Alumni Advocates
Former employees who know that their contributions matter even when they are not there are incredibly valuable to organizations. They are more likely to be public advocates for the company, recommending the business as a partner, supplier, and employer. An “army” of former employees who appreciate their experience and time with your company is a palpable, real advantage in a competitive world where time and trust are hard to come by. And this starts with honoring people’s contributions to your business whether or not they are still employed by you.
Of course, this not to say that many—even most – “successful” companies don’t do this. However, imagine the increased success those organizations would enjoy if their former employees were open and positive advocates for their former employers:
- More sales, easier gotten
- Easier recruiting for stellar talent best suited for the work and culture
- Positive brand awareness
- Efficient, profitable partnerships built on trust and prior relationship
All of these things translate to higher profit now and stronger sustainability for the future.
If your organization has a spoken or unspoken “you’re dead to me” attitude, now is the time to change it. By honoring your former employees, you strengthen your current business and lay a strong foundation for the future.