How to Hire and Engage Alumni Employees Post Layoff
A restructure or a layoff can be a tricky process for any company. On one hand, your company and its employees are experiencing a massive life-altering change. On the other hand, the layoffs or restructuring has likely impacted just one sector of your business—meaning that other regions, divisions or departments at your company are still growing, changing and hiring.
The juxtaposition can be confusing for your workforce. To alleviate some of the stress and confusion and mitigate negative reviews from impacted employees, it’s always a good idea to prepare ahead of time in the event of a pending layoff.
Even though you are releasing employees now, after your restructure or layoff you’re going to need to fill open positions in other departments or business units and within the same business unit sometime in the future. When employees exit the organization either voluntarily or due to a restructure, you want to continue to nurture the employee-employer relationship knowing that those same employees may go on to become great resources either for referrals or as rehires—often referred to as boomerang employees.
Related content: How to Thoughtfully Communicate a Corporate Restructure.
The benefits of boomerang employees
Boomerang employees are important to your talent brand. To clarify, “boomerangs” are former employees who may return to your company at some point with more diverse experience as well as insider knowledge that allows them to hit the ground running. In the context of restructuring or layoffs, boomerang employees are going to be the ones you most regret losing. They’re also going to be one of your best resources for potential rehire, as well as for referrals. Alumni networks are valuable tools for keeping in contact with these individuals.
Reduced hiring costs, higher retention rates, and long-term loyalty are just a few of the benefits of engaging boomerang alumni employees. It costs half as much to rehire an ex-employee as it does to hire a brand-new person; rehires are 40 percent more productive in their first quarter at work and tend to stay in their jobs longer. Research also suggests the average Fortune 500 company could save $12 million a year by actively recruiting alumni.
In our current talent marketplace, recruiting and HR leaders know that good employees don’t stay on the market for very long, which can make restructuring or layoffs painful for company management. They might be losing some of their best employees, so having a plan in place to hire and engage them can also help lessen the impact on your company management and workforce.
When you lay off employees, you can’t “promise” future employment. You have to give them severance in most cases, the opportunity to apply for unemployment, and the freedom to move on. But what you can do is create a program for alumni employees that allows you to stay in touch and for them to engage with you—even if they’re working for a competitor.
Creating or tapping into an alumni network
Your alumni employees have insights into your organization that other candidates and contacts don’t. They know the culture, work environment, and are some of the most trusted and reputable sources of qualified employees. Not losing touch with former employees is imperative to creating and maintaining an exceptional alumni network. You can create your own through a group on LinkedIn or Facebook. This sets up a channel for your former top performers to join by invitation so they’re the first to find out about what’s happening at your company, open positions and other news. Your alumni group can also be an excellent source for (former) employee referrals.
Who knows your company culture and the perks of working for you better than a former employee? When layoffs and restructuring are handled with care, the employees who are no longer working for you still view your employer brand in a positive light. Your current employees can be the best source of new hire referrals, and so can your alumni employees.
Related content: 8 Tips for Handling Layoffs
As an HR leader, you can also tap into existing networks as a source for raising awareness about your organization. HR professionals and recruiters are usually welcome in job seeking groups, and that includes specific alumni groups. The most important thing to remember is that you’re there to help and your goal is to offer value for these groups professionally, as well as thinking strategically about the experience the members of these groups might bring to your organization at a later date.
For example, you can recommend that an engineer or software developer employee join a Facebook group for digital jobs in your region. This means they’re not only getting access to you, but recruiters for other companies in this industry in your area have access to them. During offboarding, you want to be the person in HR who supports an employee in a layoff by giving them resources to find another job quickly.
Be a career resource for your alumni community
Professional networks also give you and your company access to a talent pool for specific industries. There are thousands out there, between LinkedIn and Facebook. They’re typically geographically centered by industry, software development jobs in NYC, for example. Or HR jobs in the Pacific Northwest, retail jobs in Miami, manufacturing jobs in Chicago, and so on. You and your team can join these groups and offer resources, post open positions, ask for referrals...and group admins will welcome you.
Be certain to provide your credentials when you ask to join a group, don’t be evasive about who you are, what your company does, and why you want to join the group. Group admins can sometimes be wary of self-serving members, people who might post “jobs” that are franchise investment schemes, and multi-level marketers looking for their “downline.”
Whether you host regular events for your own alumni network, or attend networking events for an existing industry network, your goal is the same: offer value. Be a resource. Don’t show up and hand out 50 business cards. You want to build meaningful relationships that reflect positively on your employer brand and give attendees a reason to engage with you.
If you’re hosting events for your own company’s alumni network, consider offering training or learning opportunities, even if you know a former employee will move on to use what they learned at a competitor. Your alumni network isn’t a short-term recruiting strategy; it’s a way to build and engage a large pool of talent that might boomerang this year, or five years from now (with even more experience, I might add).
Handling layoffs and restructuring is something we tend to dread in HR, but remember that our job is to keep the “human” in human resources. You don’t have to be emotionally disconnected from the process; you can remain professional and still have empathy. Offering resources like outplacement services to help laid off employees move onto their next job is a great start, and including networks to engage them once they’ve left your company is a value-add.
The way you maintain your alumni and referral networks shows that your company is genuinely invested in the future of employees impacted by layoffs or restructuring, and it’s one thing that can also positively impact your employer brand and your talent pool.