Cashing On the Power of Alumni Networks: Candid Q&A with Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Valumni

July 11, 20168:55 am1856 views

When it comes to harnessing the potentials of professionally connected social networks, for job search or acquiring new projects, the most common platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and those on the likes occur to mind. Unfortunately, most of us tend to overlook potentials and the power of reach offered by alumni networks in a lower-risk environment.

Through a candid conversation with Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Valumni, we at HR in ASIA seek valuable insights on the need for alumni networks to bridge talent gaps, importance of corporate alumni programs, and how a strong alumnus network can help reduce hiring challenges for HR managers to source talent internally and stay in touch with former employees of the company. Read on…

  1. How does an alumnus network help employees seek referrals and help them secure the most coveted job role?

When you begin the job hunt process, the first thing you do is to reach out to people you know – both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, most of us tend to overlook potentials and reach offered by the alumni networks. Here are a few things that you completely miss out on, about harnessing the potentials of alumni networks:

a) Huge potential: Alumni networks are huge – your alumni network could be from a few thousands to hundreds of thousands.

b) Diversified reach: Your alumni could be from any field and geographies unimaginable.

c) Easy access: By being part of an alumni network, reaching out to right people becomes simplified and easy. When you are part of an alumni network, you do not need to send invitations or add requests (the methodology that commonly works on other professional and social networking platforms) to break the ice barrier.

Since the alumni is built through years, based on your core subject areas of interest, expertise and persistence towards career goals, kick-starting conversations with people in the alumni is much more easier and fun. It doesn’t make networking for professional purposes seem like a daunting task to accomplish.

d) Listening group: Most importantly, when you join the alumni networking group, most people sharing common interests are honoured to be able to help each other. They empathize more with your situations and offer practical suggestions on a friendly basis, which other professional open networking platforms don’t help leverage.

The alumni networks are built somewhat on the similar lines of Facebook to offer personalised networking experience to the members through its unique approach to the networking concept followed across generations.

Also, since most HR managers who are part of alumni networks are looking for good suitable hires, seeking referrals through an alumni networking channel helps ease hiring hassles and worries to large extent.

This also facilitates HR professionals to save on time; costs incurred on hiring, and rather focus on other productive functions of the day to increase employee engagement.

  1. Why does a strong alumni network matter – right from the student perspective to employees and then, in the later stages of career development for knowledge transfer?

A strong alumni network gives you access to people who share the similar value system. A strong alumnus is a group of people ready to handhold each other at various stages of life. It is not only restricted to career development or guidance.

An alumni network is considered as a low risk environment, where you can openly share your ideas and thoughts, ask questions, offer solutions, suggestions and help to resolve other members’ problems.

Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Valumni

Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Valumni

Not only can you seek career help on this networking platform, but you can also take advantage of life coaching sessions, ask for professional help, and peer to peer mentoring can be done as well.

While, a student enjoys access to quality academic content and guidance on the career path, similarly a CEO can access the knowledge resources pivotal for a successful business.

  1. How can strong alumni networks help garner valuable insights and develop new reliable connections? Tell us more about the role of Valumni here.

Start early. If you really want to build strong alumni connections, you must start as early as fresher.

Stay connected. Don’t let them go cold. Keep in touch and build rapport, update about your recent achievements, such that those who are a part of your alumni network, feel proud to see fellow alumni grow.

For a closely knitted alumni team, it is important that only bona fide members join the network. Valumni ensures members are restricted to join only the appropriate alumni networks. Our proprietary algorithm ensures that no fake or duplicate members are joining the network.

  1. Networking right with the right people, is still a nascent concept in India. How can students and candidates’ leverage the power of social networks and penetrate alumni networking channels – which are quite unlike Facebook or LinkedIn networking?

A recent study by ASSOCHAM says that “93% MBA students are not employable”. One of the suggestions to improve higher education system in India is by using the power of alumni relations. Alumni relations can positively impact the gap in academic delivery and industry expectations.

In today’s age of rapid change and technological advancements, colleges are assessed on the success of their alumni networks. Connected and engaged alumni can undoubtedly help mitigate to chart out career paths for the unemployed youth.

When you enter into the world of professional networking, it is very important to prioritize your goals and how to make your networks for you.

The closest and most reliable form of networking for anyone to start networking professionally is Alumni Networks. Alumni network can pay you rich dividends, based on your qualifications throughout life.

In simple terms, an alumni network is a social network but with a different experience, it helps you connect with a group of people with common value system.

Unlike other social networks where you spend quantity time searching and inviting people you barely know, who later become an acquaintance.

Alumni networks work on a family-like concept, wherein you are connected by default to hundreds of people whom you know in person and have chanced upon meeting them in the past or might meet them in future, because you are a part of the same family.

See: Informational Interviews: A Classic Networking Tactic Makes a Comeback

  1. How do you identify the alumni network you want to be a part of and derive value from it?

You can be part of an Alumni Network, where you have studied or worked. Valumni doesn’t allow users to access alumni networks which they are not part of. Once you have joined your alumni network, you can have access to all the members, academic content and the freedom to choose your mentor from your alumni network.

Going forward, we want to create an alumni ecosystem which will help each user identify the alumni network they want to be a part of, depending on the field of their interest, and derive value from it.

  1. Explain the role of corporate alumni for knowledge transfer in case of retirement or moving on to another company?

Role of alumni is not just restricted to educational institutes and consulting companies. The changing trends at workplace and employment environment are encouraging organisations to strengthen their ties with the former employees.

Globalisation and intensified war for talent has highlighted the role of corporate alumni networks and those organisations, serious about talent recruitment are developing a strategy around former employees for mutual benefit.

To make an alumni program successful, organisations should start early, from employee-manager relationship and make alumni program, an integral part of their exit process.

From a corporate stand point, a strong and engaged alumni program will not only open window of opportunity for rehiring but there are other strategic benefits as well. It reduces the credibility gap created, during the time of employee exit and extends the ownership even after exit.

Ex-employees can be your business partners, potential clients and consultants. Former employees could be the number one source of quality business leads, and thus can help increase the chances of a successful business.

In the current scenario, market intelligence and feedbacks are the keys to success of every business, and former employees play a crucial role.

  1. How does an alumnus networking support the current trend of hiring boomerang employees to be working once again with their ex-employers, former colleagues and organisations of the past?

Organisations are increasingly accepting boomerang hiring as a trend soon gaining momentum in the corporate sphere. MNCs are soon coming to terms with the fact that, the cost of rehiring a former employee is much less than a fresh hire, and this can be brought down to zero by establishing a Corporate Alumni Program.

Ex-employees are already acquainted with the organisation’s DNA, this helps save on costs and time spent in employee’s training and induction. A second inning with a former employer is generally longer.

This helps mitigate the attrition rate and re-hired employees reach minimum productivity levels faster than the fresh hires. Most organisations fail to hire former employees due to lack of strategy.

Organisations generally stay in touch and reach out to their former employees through newsletters, emails, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and emails. These methods of getting reconnected with the former employees will soon become a thing of the past. The current generations of the workforce seem to less use and respond to these outdated hiring approaches.

Organisations should well-develop a strategy before an exited employee cuts all cords of reconnecting in the future. The best way to keep in touch with your former employees is through a Corporate Alumni Program.

Do not let them walk away as out of mind and sight. Foster employee engagement throughout by actively interacting with them and creating a mutually beneficial environment.

  1. Should metrics be used to measure alumni engagement of employees and how can HR managers promote better engagement of employees with their colleagues in past?

For any organisation, the biggest source of value is their “Culture”, and current social media environment can work in the favour of or against the organisation.

Protecting your values and employer brand from outside your organisation is as important as it is to protect it from inside. This can only be achieved through greater degrees of trust and sense of belonging established with the former employees.

The Corporate Alumni Program plays a pivotal role in the entire employee recruitment, training and learning processes. It further strengthens the employer branding strategy and builds upon the culture of belongingness. This not only reflects well of the organisation on the alumni network, but also on the current employees and the imagery for the world outside as well.

Organisations with strong alumni programs have shown higher employee engagement levels and retention. Employees and Alumni are two different sets of people with different expectations, and organisations should also have different goals and objectives while managing both these groups.

It has also been observed that organisations are highly sensitive about their talent onboard and retention of the current workforce.

Herein, Valumni provides different but homogeneous solutions to organisations to engage their employees and alumni. This solution will be embedded internally to ensure smooth transition of the employees to the alumni networks without disturbing their user experience at the time of exit.

  1. How do alumni networks support collaboration at work and create culture of continuous learning through establishing “mentor-mentee relationships” with experts on job?

Mentorship, or Mentoring as a concept, is at a very nascent stage in India. However, we aren’t oblivious to the humungous advantages alumni networks have on mentoring. Unfortunately, the people who need it the most are the most deprived lot too.

Alumni Networks are trusted and low risk environments that provide access to thousands of mentors across industries and functions of your expertise.

A homogenous alumni ecosystem will allow the newbie mentees to become corporate ready brand ambassadors and prepare themselves for bigger tasks and roles.

It will also empower the youth to help realise their dreams faster and inculcate a habit of giving back to the community they coexist, as well. Seeking out for mentorship will soon be seen as a sign of maturity.

Also read: How to Use LinkedIn for Corporate Branding?

Content credits: This exclusive interview coverage and content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.

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