Despite the wild weather over the past few weeks, a glance at my calendar reminds me that spring is less than two weeks away. With spring comes graduation season. Although often viewed as marking the conclusion of formal education, consider that the graduation event itself is called commencement. This rite of passage celebrates the start of the next phase of a graduate’s life. And even before the last exam is taken, the college or university’s alumni association begins contacting graduating students, encouraging them to join the organization, and stay connected with the school and peers, network with other alumni, and even travel together on cruises and other vacation adventures. Alumni are often invited back as guest lecturers, to serve on career boards, to mentor students, or otherwise contribute to the school (beyond just financially).
It occured to me that companies could learn a lesson from colleges and universities in how to remain connected to their retirees and other former employees. What if they began to treat them as true alumni, courting their on-going engagement with the company as they work together on their retirement strategy and transition plans? Here are three steps you can take now to establish a vibrant, reliable, and productive alumni talent pool that will support your needs for years to come.
Last week, I wrote about the need to think differently about how we approach work and utilize our alumni talent pool, given the seismic shifts taking place in today’s workforce. Chief Human Resource Officers and others in the C-suite who are responsible for strategically planning and resourcing their talent requirements are facing some startling facts. Consider that by 2020:
- 25% of the workforce will be between the ages of 55 and 74; this percentage will remain the same for the foreseeable future
- There will be 40 million too few workers with sufficient education to fill technical or scientific roles
- 50% of science and engineering workers will be eligible for retirement
- More than half the US workforce will be freelancers
In addition, the average retirement age is 62, and the youngest Baby Boomers will turn 65 in 2029…only 12 years from now! The gap between retiring Baby Boomer skills-experience-wisdom and that of up-and-coming Millennials leaves a serious talent vacuum in its wake. All this combines to create the perfect storm for innovative talent solutions, one of which requires that you look no further than your own HR files. An increasingly viable and smart way to close this gap is to re-engage with your own alumni.
While Baby Boomers are stepping away from the grind of traditional full-time, career-focused employment, many are working part time, starting their own businesses, serving on Boards, or volunteering. Today’s “retirees” expect to live longer and do more in this phase of their life than prior generations. Reactivating your “retired” talent to address seasonal surges, facilitate divestitures, acquisitions, or other event-specific initiatives, or even to mentor young high-potential professionals, has tremendous advantages:
- Reduced talent sourcing time
- Pre-existing knowledge of your products/services and your business processes
- Understanding of and fit with company culture
- Intellectual Property and tacit knowledge developed over years of employment
So, you need talent. Boomers are open to and available for “gigs”. Leveraging the experience and wisdom of your alumni is a great option. How do you bring all this together?
- Make it real. A recent study by the Society of Human Resource Management indicates that only about 8% of companies have formal alumni programs. Establish a formal alumni-return program…and brand it. For example, Atlantic Health Systems call theirs “Alumni Club," Michelin calls theirs “Returning Retiree Program." Think creative, distinctive, and inviting. Make sure that retiring employees are aware of alumni opportunities and how to engage with them before and after they leave. Include discussion of their interest in project-based work post-retirement as part of their transition process. Establish on-going communication platforms and make sure alumni are signed up so you have a database to draw from. Offer regular social events and continuing education programs in addition to specific “gig” opportunities.
- Partner to facilitate process and insure compliance. Labor rules, IRS requirements, the Affordable Care Act, and other regulations related to utilizing retirees, former employees, and other Independent Contractors are constantly changing and increasingly complex. Partner with an expert resource, like YourEncore, to outsource the management of your alumni program. This lets you focus on your business requirements and alumni relationships, confident in the knowledge that your program is being run in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations and that back-office functions are being handled efficiently.
- Look outside the box. While your own alumni know you best and can hit the ground running, there may be times when you need specialized skills not available among your existing pool of “graduates." Leverage the LinkedIn effect of your alumni, most of whom have cultivated a broad network over the course of their career. Connect with alumni programs at other companies in the industries or expertise areas you need. Engage with professional retiree networks, such as YourEncore, to fill talent gaps.
As you develop your workforce strategies, consider the critical role that your alumni can serve in achieving your objectives. Plan ahead…2020 is only three years away! Act now, so that you are prepared to move quickly when a talent gap needs filling. Need help getting started? Contact me, and let’s talk about how to make an alumni-return program a key component of your success as a business leader. We have established programs, technologies, and engagement models that make it easy for businesses and their alumni to collaborate.
About Mike Lewis: Mike is Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for YourEncore. He is passionate about connecting Life Science and Consumer Goods Clients with YourEncore Experts, bringing them the rich experience and technical know-how they need to address their business challenges via flexible resourcing and consulting engagements. He is an innovative sales and marketing leader who has successfully introduced new selling and marketing models that have transformed companies in the process. He is a thought leader in social selling and account based marketing and has leveraged both to grow company revenues and reputation.