Why saying farewell should not mean goodbye

By Geraldine Ellis-Maguire

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Mike Page invites Geraldine Ellis-MaGuire to discuss the value of building corporate alumni communities.

If you were assessing the suitability of a potential candidate for your organisation, would you review their profile on social media sites? The chances are yes. It is now second nature to quickly research a person on LinkedIn and then to expand this further to include Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and the list goes on.

As an employer have you thought about what research a candidate is performing on your organisation? Yes they would certainly look at your website to see the information that you have control over regarding your brand and how you position your organisation. However, what about the information that you have no control over? As an example sites such as Glassdoor enable former employees the opportunity to rate their experience of having worked for your company? Their comments include the Pros the Cons, their advice to senior management and whether or not they would recommend the organisation to others.

As an employer, how do you mitigate against the vast amount of information that is now accessible to people via the Web? The truth is you cannot turn every former employee in to a goodwill brand ambassador but if you are not attempting to do this then what impact is this having on your revenue, your reputation, your ability to attract the best and brightest and on your brand as a whole? When you farewell an employee from your organisation you should be saying farewell and not goodbye. People have the right to seek career growth and to expand their skill sets and experience. It is how you farewell them and your commitment to maintaining an ongoing relationship that just might make the difference.

At ENGAGED we work with organisations to assist them with the strategy, implementation and ongoing management of corporate alumni communities. Our clients are typically organisations that fall within sectors that have not traditionally developed alumni networks. In our dealings with companies we find that amongst the many questions asked, two are typically asked by everyone.

The first commonly asked question is:

“what about former employees that the organisation has no interest in rehiring or reengaging with”?

At ENGAGED it is our role not to answer this question but instead to provide a range of different scenarios and then leave it up to the company to make a decision. One such scenario is - When you invite a person to become a member of your alumni community it doesn’t mean that you are making a commitment to rehiring them. What you are saying is that when you worked for us we acknowledge the contribution that you made, we acknowledge that for many months or many years we shared work space with you and it is important to us as a company that we continue our relationship. Not everyone will want to join the alumni community however for those that do you are able to build an engaged audience of brand ambassadors who have the desire to stay connected to your organisation and to continue to make a contribution in the goodwill of your company. Yes there may be former employees who left on less than favourable terms however it may be more beneficial to your organisation to at least ensure they are feeling neutral about your company rather than negative and angry. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation and an invitation to remain connected.

The second question that we are regularly asked is:

“We know we haven’t treated people well when they have left our company so how can we reach out to these people”? Why would they want to hear from us?

There are organisations that I have personally worked for who managed my outboarding poorly. I can think of one organisation from some time ago, who went to great lengths to have various members of the senior management team call me including the CEO. All were asking me to reconsider my resignation. They had obviously had a meeting together prior to calling me and had assigned roles as to who would play good cop and be supportive and who would play bad cop and stress how my departure was letting down the team. I was next asked if I would complete an exit survey which I happily did. One of the questions asked was would I consider returning to the company. “Yes most definitely” was my answer. But I never heard from anyone again. If this company had contacted me within the first six months of departure and asked me to return, I would have said yes.

Sometimes the simplest way to reach out to former employees is to say “hello and how are you”. We know we haven’t stayed in contact with you and for this we are sorry. We know we handled your resignation poorly and for this we are sorry and we would value your input as to how we could do this better.

When a person resigns from your organisation, think beyond the immediate pain and focus on the value of their ongoing relationship. Don’t say goodbye but instead farewell for now.

Geraldine Ellis-MaGuire is Chief Community Manager and Managing Director at Engaged Talent Communities. You can connect with Geraldine through LinkedIn