From breakups to breakthroughs: Fostering strong relationships with former employees can benefit organisations, says research

From breakups to breakthroughs: Fostering strong relationships with former employees can benefit organisations, says research
Representational imagePixabay
While it is commonly advised to avoid lingering connections with your exes, in the professional realm, maintaining ties with former employees can lead to a goldmine of benefits. Yes, you read that right! Organisations actively cosying up to ex-staff members might just be onto something big, new research has found.

Conducted by the UBC Sauder School of Business, the study delved into various businesses to explore why organisations are increasingly investing resources in strengthening bonds with ex-employees, also known as alumni.

Fostering alumni relationships

The researchers propose that alumni-organisation relationships (AORs) can be significant for companies because alumni possess a unique blend of insider knowledge and external connections. This can prove invaluable if former employees return as contractors or engage with companies that have ties to their former employer.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More
For some organisations, AORs often light the spark for new business opportunities as well.

Maintaining these connections also enhances branding and reputation by demonstrating ongoing support for employees, even after they've moved on. Notably, companies like Starbucks leverage AORs to bolster their brand image in the community, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie among patrons.


While AORs have traditionally been prevalent in professional service firms, the trend is expanding as job mobility increases among workers. Consequently, more organisations are prioritising relationships with alumni as part of their strategic initiatives.

Programs aimed at supporting AORs offer a plethora of benefits to alumni as well, including newsletters, career resources, job boards, training opportunities, networking events and more.

Mending fences: How to cultivate alumni-organisation relationships

Establishing successful AORs poses challenges. While there are established norms related to hiring, compensation, etc., there’s no standardised playbook for managing post-employment relationships.

To foster fruitful AORs, organisations must prioritise comprehensive outreach efforts, engaging a diverse array of alumni. Strategic targeting of alumni who can offer significant value to the company is essential. Additionally, encouraging current employees to maintain connections with alumni facilitates the exchange of knowledge and resources back into the organisation.

Moreover, successful programs hinge on input from former employees. Organisations must solicit feedback from alumni to ensure their needs are met, rather than merely replicating initiatives because other companies are doing so.

One common pitfall for employers is neglecting departing employees and then attempting to maintain contact post-departure. Therefore, positive exit experiences are crucial for fostering long-term relationships with alumni.

Although the concept of nurturing relationships with former employees may seem counterintuitive, savvy organisations recognise the importance of keeping the flame alive with today's highly mobile workforce, even after they've moved on.