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Perpetual Association: Rethinking Employee Engagement, Attrition, and Retention



In the traditional business landscape, employee engagement, attrition, and retention have been viewed in rather static terms. Companies often focus their efforts on keeping their current employees satisfied, motivated, and productive, while loss of employees (attrition) is seen as a negative outcome to be minimized. The subsequent pursuit of employee retention strategies usually aims to entice employees to remain within the organization for as long as possible. However, in the face of shifting workforce dynamics and evolving employment trends, such strategies may not fully harness the potential of the relationship between an employer and its workforce.

Enter the concept of ‘Perpetual Association’, a new way to rethink our approach to these issues. By treating the relationship between employers and employees as a continuous, evolving connection, rather than a binary in-or-out status, companies can unlock a host of opportunities. In essence, perpetual association is about creating an active, engaged ‘alumni’ network of sorts, where ex-employees remain connected, engaged, and mutually beneficial to their former employers.

This innovative approach reframes ‘ex-employees’ from being considered a loss, into a powerful, untapped resource. In this article, I will delve into the why, what, and how of perpetual association, offering insights on how companies can reconfigure their employee engagement strategies, redefine their approach to attrition, and re-imagine what employee retention could look like in the 21st-century workplace.

Why Perpetual Association Matters

In the contemporary employment landscape, the rules of the game are rapidly changing. One of the most significant shifts has been the increase in job hopping. Unlike previous generations, who often spent their entire careers with one or two companies, today’s employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z, are more likely to switch jobs frequently in search of new experiences, better opportunities, and a more balanced life.

Job hopping is fueled by various factors. Firstly, the digital age has made job searches and transitions much easier and more transparent. Employees can easily access information about other companies, roles, and industries, allowing them to make informed decisions about their career path. Secondly, the gig economy and the rise of remote work have broken down traditional employment barriers, offering more flexibility and freedom for workers to shift roles and industries.

Concurrently, employee expectations are also evolving. Today’s workforce places high value on flexibility, continuous growth, and lifelong learning. They are not only looking for jobs that provide a paycheck but also those that can help them grow both personally and professionally. Employees today desire opportunities for continuous learning, upskilling, and reskilling to keep up with the rapid pace of technological changes and industry shifts.

In light of these changes, the traditional approaches to employee engagement and retention may fall short. An alternative approach is needed, one that aligns with these shifting dynamics and evolving expectations. Herein lies the relevance of perpetual association — an approach that addresses these modern workforce trends while providing a platform for continuous engagement, even after an employee has moved on from the organization. In the next section, I will explore this concept in greater depth.

The potential benefits of maintaining connections with former employees

As we navigate the new era of work, the advantages of a strong network of former employees are becoming more evident. Here’s why maintaining connections with ex-employees through perpetual association can be an advantageous strategy:

Networking Opportunities and Collaborations

Firstly, former employees often move on to different companies, industries, or geographies, expanding their network and gaining new experiences and perspectives. By maintaining a connection with these individuals, companies can tap into this expanding network for potential collaborations, partnerships, or business opportunities. An ex-employee working in a potential client company could become a valuable connection, while another who has moved to a different industry could provide unique insights or collaboration opportunities.

Enhancing Employer Brand Reputation

Secondly, how a company treats its current and former employees significantly impacts its employer brand. An active and supportive alumni network sends a positive message about the company’s culture and values, enhancing its reputation as a desirable place to work. Ex-employees, who feel valued and respected even after their tenure, are more likely to speak positively about their former employer, enhancing the company’s employer brand through word-of-mouth.

Potential Re-hiring of High Performing Ex-Employees (“Boomerang Employees”)

Thirdly, maintaining good relations with former employees leaves the door open for their potential return. In many cases, ex-employees might acquire new skills or experiences that make them even more valuable to your organization upon their return. These “boomerang employees” can easily fit back into the company culture and hit the ground running, saving on onboarding time and cost. Additionally, they can bring back valuable insights from their experiences at other organizations, contributing to your company’s strategic vision and competitive advantage.

A perpetual association strategy isn’t merely a “nice to have” — it’s an innovative approach that aligns with the changing dynamics of the modern job market and brings tangible benefits. The next sections will delve deeper into the concept of perpetual association and explore how it can be implemented effectively.

What is Perpetual Association

Perpetual Association is a paradigm shift in how organizations view their relationship with employees. Traditionally, the employer-employee relationship is seen as a transactional exchange confined to the period of employment. However, Perpetual Association redefines this connection as a lifelong relationship, extending beyond the tenure of employment. It aims to transform former employees into ambassadors, collaborators, and potentially returning assets, thereby creating an “alumni network” of sorts.

This concept is rooted in the idea that even though employees might leave an organization, they carry with them experiences, knowledge, and connections that remain valuable. It treats ex-employees not as attrition statistics, but as a community that continues to grow and engage with the organization in different ways — whether as brand advocates, potential re-hires, networking contacts, or industry collaborators.

A Comparison with Traditional Alumni Networks

Often found in academic institutions, traditional alumni networks maintain loose connections with their alumni, typically focusing on fundraising, occasional networking events, or communication updates. The engagement is often one-sided, with the institution reaching out when it requires support or involvement from its alumni.

In contrast, Perpetual Association within a business context aims for a more mutually beneficial, consistent, and engaging relationship. It goes beyond just sporadic communication or requests for support and looks to provide value to former employees, such as career resources, networking opportunities, industry insights, and a platform to stay connected with former colleagues.

By fostering a sense of belonging and continued engagement, Perpetual Association serves to transform the narrative around attrition. Rather than viewing employee departures solely as a loss, it reframes it as a transition to a different phase of the relationship, one that can offer unique benefits to both parties.

This approach also helps in reducing attrition, as employees who feel a strong bond with the organization may be more likely to return or recommend it to others, thereby enhancing the talent pool. The sense of being part of a community can be a strong emotional draw, fostering loyalty and positive sentiment towards the organization.

On the retention front, it adds another dimension. Retention no longer means just keeping employees in the company, but also maintaining a relationship with them after they have left. This mindset shift broadens the concept of retention, making it more dynamic and future-oriented.

As positioned here, Perpetual Association is a comprehensive approach that encompasses engagement, attrition, and retention in a holistic way, aligning with the evolving realities of the modern workforce and offering benefits that traditional models may not capture. The next section will explore how to practically implement Perpetual Association within an organization.

How to Establish and Maintain Perpetual Association

Setting up the Network

Initial Outreach to Former Employees

The first step in establishing a Perpetual Association network is to reach out to your former employees. This can be done via a personalized email or letter, acknowledging their valuable contributions to your organization and expressing your desire to keep the relationship active. This initial communication should be positive, respectful, and should underline the benefits they stand to gain from this relationship.

Establishing a Platform for Communication

Next, you need a platform where your alumni network can connect, engage, and share. Depending on the size of your organization and the preferences of your alumni, this could be a dedicated section on your company’s website, a private social media group, a regular newsletter, or even a combination of these. The platform should allow for two-way communication, ensuring former employees can also share updates, ask questions, or connect with each other and current employees.

Maintaining the Network

Regular Updates and Communication

To keep the network vibrant and engaged, regular communication is crucial. This could include updates about your company, industry news, job openings, or achievements of alumni. These updates not only keep the connection alive but also provide alumni with valuable information and a reason to stay engaged.

Creating Opportunities for Engagement

Beyond just sharing updates, active engagement can be facilitated through various events and activities. These could include networking events, workshops, seminars, or webinars that provide learning and development opportunities. Reunion events can also be a good way to strengthen the bond among alumni and between alumni and the organization.

Making the Network Beneficial for Former Employees

Highlighting Benefits

For former employees to actively participate in this network, they must see a clear benefit. This could include job opportunities within the organization or at partner companies, exclusive access to industry reports, opportunities to mentor current employees, or discounts on your company’s products or services. By making their involvement valuable, they are more likely to remain engaged with the network.

Inviting Them to Company Events and Functions

Former employees should not just be remembered during special alumni events but should also be part of major company events and celebrations. This makes them feel valued and respected and fosters a sense of belonging and pride.

Establishing and maintaining a Perpetual Association network requires effort, but with strategic planning and execution, it can result in a vibrant, engaged community that serves to enhance your company’s culture, employer brand, and talent pool. The next sections will provide examples of successful implementation and discuss strategies to overcome common challenges.

Companies Implementing Perpetual Association

Here are some examples of companies running corporate alumni networks that speak to the idea of perpetual association:

Example 1: Citi Alumni Network

The Citi Alumni Network is a platform for former employees to stay connected with Citi and their fellow alumni. The network offers benefits, organizes alumni events, and provides information about job opportunities at Citi. The network boasts 30,000 active alumni from over 100 countries, representing more than 300 companies. The CEO of Citigroup, Jane Fraser, emphasizes the importance of the alumni network, stating that even after moving on in their careers, the time spent at Citi connects all members. The network also celebrates “Boomerang Employees”, those who have returned to Citi after a period of working elsewhere. More Info.

Example 2: BCG Alumni Program

The BCG Alumni Program is designed to keep past and current BCGers part of the same family. The program provides tools to strengthen relationships, facilitate networking, and foster the exchange of ideas within the BCG community. The program also features an “Alumni Spotlight” section, where it shares stories of alumni who have made significant strides in their careers after BCG. More Info.

Example 3: McKinsey Alumni Program

The McKinsey Alumni Program helps its global network of alumni stay engaged with one another and with the firm. The program shares news about the achievements of its alumni, such as founding successful VC funds, leading national sports teams, and making significant contributions to environmental sustainability. The program also provides resources for alumni to stay connected and informed about the firm’s activities. More Info.

Example 4: P&G Alumni Program

The P&G Alumni Network connects the talent, ideas, and resources of P&G Alumni worldwide. The network organizes events, provides enriching content, and supports philanthropic activities. The network is officially recognized and supported by Procter & Gamble and has more than a hundred thousand members across cities and chapters worldwide. The network also organizes a global conference for alumni to connect and share ideas. More Info.

Insights

These examples show that alumni networks can be valuable for companies. They can help maintain relationships with former employees, who can be sources of new business, talent, and knowledge. These networks also provide benefits to the alumni themselves, offering opportunities for networking, professional development, and re-employment. These programs demonstrate the value of viewing the relationship with employees as a lifelong connection, extending beyond the tenure of employment.

Overcoming Challenges in Implementing Perpetual Association

Anticipating Common Challenges

Despite its many advantages, implementing a Perpetual Association strategy is not without challenges. Recognizing and addressing these issues from the onset is key to creating a successful and effective alumni network.

  1. Privacy Issues: A significant challenge in managing an alumni network is respecting and navigating privacy concerns. Not all ex-employees may be comfortable sharing their contact information or updates about their career progress, and it’s crucial to respect their wishes and privacy rights.

  2. Engagement Management: Ensuring consistent engagement can be a daunting task. People are busy, and your alumni network may not be their priority. Finding ways to maintain engagement, provide valuable content, and organize worthwhile events can be challenging.

  3. Network Growth and Management: As more employees leave and join the network, managing it can become more complex. There will be a need for dedicated resources to manage the network and ensure its smooth operation.

Strategies for Overcoming These Challenges

While these challenges may seem daunting, they can be mitigated with proper planning and strategies.

  1. Addressing Privacy Issues: To respect privacy, companies should be transparent about how they will use any data shared by ex-employees. An opt-in model can be implemented for different types of communication, and assurances can be made about not sharing their information with third parties without their explicit consent.

  2. Boosting Engagement: To maintain interest and engagement, companies can provide exclusive benefits, such as access to resources, exclusive networking events, or professional development opportunities. It’s important to continually seek feedback from the alumni to understand their needs and interests and adapt your strategy accordingly.

  3. Managing Network Growth: As your network grows, consider investing in alumni network management software or hiring a dedicated alumni relations officer. This can help manage the network efficiently and ensure regular, valuable engagement.

Implementing Perpetual Association is a journey with potential hurdles along the way, but by anticipating these challenges and proactively addressing them, companies can pave the way for a vibrant and beneficial alumni network.

The Future of Perpetual Association and Workforce Management

Trends in Perpetual Association

As businesses increasingly recognize the value of maintaining relationships with their former employees, Perpetual Association is likely to become a standard component of workforce management strategies.

  1. Technology Integration: With the rise of digital platforms and HR technology, it’s expected that future alumni networks will leverage these tools for effective engagement. Advanced alumni network platforms might incorporate AI and machine learning to personalize communications, optimize engagement, and make valuable connections within the network.

  2. Expanded Scope of Engagement: We might see an expansion in the types of engagement opportunities offered. This could include virtual mentoring programs, where ex-employees guide current employees, shared learning platforms where alumni can contribute their expertise, and more collaborations between companies and their alumni on projects, research, and innovation.

  3. Stronger Emphasis on Mutual Benefit: As the concept evolves, companies will likely focus more on creating a mutually beneficial relationship. This could manifest in various ways, such as providing career support for alumni, acknowledging their contributions, and more actively involving them in company initiatives.

Role of Perpetual Association in the Future of Employee Engagement and Retention

As the nature of work continues to change, maintaining a strong connection with past, present, and future talent will be crucial.

  1. Evolving Workforce: With increasing gig economy, remote work, and job hopping, the traditional model of employee engagement and retention might not be sufficient. In this context, Perpetual Association offers an innovative and flexible approach that aligns with these changing trends.

  2. Enhanced Employer Branding: In an increasingly competitive talent market, having a strong employer brand is vital. By fostering a vibrant alumni network, organizations can enhance their employer brand, making them more attractive to top talent.

  3. Continuous Learning and Collaboration: The future of work is likely to be characterized by continuous learning and collaboration. Alumni networks can facilitate this by providing a platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration, which can help both current and former employees navigate their careers.

In Summary…

As I’ve explored in this article, Perpetual Association provides an innovative, forward-thinking approach to employee engagement and retention. The benefits it offers are extensive. By maintaining strong ties with former employees, organizations can tap into a vast network of ambassadors, collaborators, and potential “boomerang” employees. This approach can enhance a company’s reputation, broaden its reach, and strengthen its talent pool.

Moreover, Perpetual Association aligns with the changing dynamics of the workforce, providing a flexible and inclusive model that can adapt to trends such as job hopping, the gig economy, and remote work. It broadens the concept of employee retention, ensuring that the connection with valuable talent does not end when they exit the organization but continues to flourish in different ways.

Encouragement for Companies to Explore This New Paradigm

In the face of an ever-evolving job market, companies need to be open to new ways of managing and engaging their workforce. Perpetual Association is a strategy that acknowledges the value of each employee, not just during their time within the organization, but also after their departure.

While implementing such a strategy may seem daunting, the potential benefits and future trends suggest it’s an investment worth making. As we navigate the future of work, a more holistic, inclusive, and engaging approach to employee relationships like Perpetual Association could be the differentiator that sets a company apart.

I invite companies to explore this new paradigm, to view their former employees not as lost talent but as lifelong allies. The success stories of tomorrow might very well be those who recognize that every departure is not an end, but the beginning of a new chapter in their relationship with their employees.

Closing Thoughts

As you come to the end of this article, I encourage you to consider how the concept of Perpetual Association could be applied within your own organization. Reflect on the relationships your company maintains with former employees. Are there ways to strengthen these ties? Could you leverage these relationships to improve your brand reputation, talent pool, and business performance?

Perhaps it’s time to look beyond the traditional boundaries of employee engagement and explore how a Perpetual Association model could benefit your organization. Whether you start small with a social media group or a newsletter, or you choose to invest in a fully-fledged alumni platform, each step towards Perpetual Association could bring valuable returns.

I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts on this concept. Have you been part of an organization that maintains a robust network with its former employees? How has this impacted you professionally and personally? Do you have ideas on how to improve these networks and make them more engaging and beneficial for all parties involved?

Your insights could pave the way for more comprehensive strategies and innovative approaches to employee engagement and retention. Share your thoughts and join in this exciting conversation about the future of workforce management. Let’s redefine the boundaries of the employer-employee relationship and shape a more inclusive, engaging, and beneficial future of work.

 

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I’m passionate about topics like performance, capability development and capacity expansion, purposefulness and intentionality, success strategies, holistic wellness, meaningful life and work, human+technology, technology as an enabler, music and creative media production techniques and technologies. Reach out, I’m open to a sit down anytime to share ideas over a nice cup of coffee or tea!

 

This article incorporates text generated with the assistance of GPT, an advanced language model developed by OpenAI.

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