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Who says talent development has to stop when an employee moves on?

5 10 2

Graduates of US colleges know what it means to be alumni: A steady flow of beseeching mail seeking donations, and the occasional homecoming football game.

But what does it mean to be an alum of a company?

For a small but increasing number of professionals, it means being part of a network of former employees organized by their ex-employers to take part reunions, networking opportunities and for some, a chance to return to their former place of work,

As corporations redefine the traditional relationship between employers and employees and find new ways to invest in talent development, they’re also looking differently at the value of those they’ve already invested in. One estimate says 8% of the companies in the Fortune 1,000 have some form of alumni program, offering reunions, career-networking events, or discounts on products, just like a university would.

The advent of the corporate alumni network reflects new ways of thinking about career progression. Once, in the Platonic ideal of the American corporation, employment was for life. Workers would join in their early 20s, work their way up to management, and retire in their 60s with a gold watch and pension.

But that model, never particularly accurate, has been discarded first by companies happy to outsource and offshore jobs, and more recently by workers eager to exploit a tight labor market for better opportunities. Now, former employees are viewed as customers, brand ambassadors, sources of referrals, and even future employees.

At Microsoft, roughly 15% of its hires are “boomerang employees”—ex-employees who have returned, says Rich Kaplan, general manager of employee services. “I want them to come back and work here,” Kaplan says. “Maybe they went somewhere else because they thought the grass was greener on the other side, and they found out it was brown. But they only come back if you treat them with respect, and make sure they are fans and advocates.”

Finding a new identity

In part, that means managing their exit process, and plugging them into Microsoft’s alumni program when they leave. The Microsoft Alumni Network is unusual in that it is a separate nonprofit entity, and legally not part of........

© Quartz