Leveraging Corporate Alumni For Strategic Transformation

Christian Mencke

Corporate alumni networks are an untapped reservoir of potential when it comes to helping a company implement strategic transformations. Alumni can provide key benefits to a company, which the organization couldn’t otherwise access, because they have a half-in/half-out view and are organized as a trust-based network, they are not bound by the same politics that hinder current employees. With this objective viewpoint and company knowledge, alumni help organizations crystallize a company’s purpose, contribute to an enhanced consumer experience, and foster agile decision making. All three aspects are key ingredients to succeed with a strategic transformation.

Strategic Transformation Catalyzed By An Alumni Network

Figure: Strategic Transformation Catalyzed by an Alumni Network

Strategies need to enable a company to deliver an amazing consumer experience. Networks, with their naturally very diverse perspectives, multiple insights, and trust-based exchange about what works well and what doesn’t, can provide a very clear picture about what resonates with consumers’ preferences, opinions, and perceptions. This is even more true for alumni networks due to their unique perspective on a company’s situation. Therefore, including your alumni network into strategy development and execution will help achieve an uncompromised consumer experience.

Alumni can also help organizations crystalize their purpose. It’s a proven fact that a common, authentic purpose behind what employees do pushes strategic transformation. Alumni networks are very open to discuss whether a purpose should be accepted within a company or might require adjustments to be considered authentic. Being challenged and validated this way, a company’s purpose is more likely to be authentic and resilient enough to carry people through the challenging times of strategy execution.

Alumni networks also establish an informal, consumer-oriented layer across formal organizations. With their involvement in strategic discussions, they’re able to “nudge” an organization towards a consumer preference. Moreover, because of their cross-organizational, informal shape leading to faster flow of information, wider access to required knowledge, and open, team-minded feedback culture, corporate alumni networks can enrich the strategic work of a company with an agile attitude, helping them keep pace with the dynamics of our digitalized economy.

For a successful strategic transformation in an increasingly networked economy, it’s important to have a strong commitment to the company from employees and former employees, as many of the latter remain in a company’s ecosystem and continue to be mission-critical resources. This is why an alumni relations network is helpful as an established platform for keeping former employees connected as members of the “corporate family” acting as enthusiastic brand ambassadors, convincing business developers, serving as an authentic feedback source, and functioning as an exclusive talent (referral) resource. For example, SAP’s alumni relations network extends around the globe with a member base of almost 10,000 former and current SAP employees in more than 80 countries.

Every company has former employees and the potential to strengthen its business performance by establishing alumni relations. So, I encourage you to build, manage, and engage your own corporate alumni network to benefit from a strategic asset that is readily available at a reasonable cost. Start by establishing an online network, organizing global and local reunion events, and communicating frequently. But keep in mind: Trust is the key to success! So, don’t manage your network like a formal organization but more like a family of likeminded members sympathetic to one another because they have something very special in common. This allows you to take advantage of your alumni community as a tremendous opportunity in an increasingly networked and highly dynamic economic environment.

Employers are beginning to integrate HR and marketing functions, as both areas are focused on influencing and motivating people. Learn about “Human Resources: The Internal Marketing Machine.”

Christian Mencke

About Christian Mencke

Dr. Christian Mencke is Director/HR Project Expert Alumni Relations at SAP SE. In his role he focuses on management and strategic development of the trust-based “SAP Family” network of former SAP employees towards a vital community of enthusiastic brand ambassadors, convincing business developers, authentic feedback providers and an exclusive talent pool. Prior to that he worked on business, strategy and organizational development of SAPs Partner Ecosystem as well as for other large and medium-sized enterprises based on an internal and external management consulting background. Christian studied Economics and Social Sciences at Leuphana University, Germany, and holds a PhD in the subject of trust and networks in a business context.