White Paper: Alumni Induction Programmes as an alternative to so-called “outplacement”, especially for Long Service Leavers

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White Paper – Alumni Induction Programmes, especially for Long Service Leavers

Ciaran Fenton
White Paper: DRAFT V1
Alumni Induction Programmes, especially for Long Service
Leavers, an alternative to so-called “outplacement”
Ciarán Fenton, Founding Partner, Fenton & Co LLP
October 2011
The purpose of this paper is to promote a change in the
management of leavers by using alumni programmes to create
benefits for both leavers and organisations alike.
At best, exit conversations and processes are currently as good
as the highest levels of emotional intelligence of those
involved. At worst, the process is traumatic for the leaver and
damaging to the organisation.
There is an opportunity to change this by reframing the
relationship between the parties and by acknowledging that
since all leavers, whether highly rated or not, form part of the
collective intellectual property and network into which the
organisation has invested, then a higher return on that
investment in the future can be achieved by retaining value
through alumni induction programmes.
The first step is to reframe the relationships in a leaving
context. Currently the relationship is often, although not
always, framed in a “parent-child” mode1, and I use these
terms as Eric Berne intended and acknowledge that senior
executives would not necessarily recognise themselves in
these patterns. The stronger “parent” organisation negotiates
an exit with the weaker “child” leaver. Even with basic alumni
programmes in place, neither the leaver nor the organisation
benefits from future activity. The organisation’s reputation
suffers with those remaining as well as with those who might
join it.
The proposed reframing consists of a conversion of this
“parent-child” dynamic to an “adult-adult” dynamic whereby
the “macro-business” organisation negotiates and works with
the “micro-business” exiting senior executive. This merely
reflects the reality. The senior executive has always been a
professional services firm “on legs” and there is no difference
between him/her and any business. So, if their careers are
businesses then all the art and science of business can be
applied to them. It also means that their relationship with the
organisation was one of joint venture partner or service
provider and this changes the context of the exit.
1 Eric Berne, Transactional Analysis
Provided the organisation commits to a belief that all alumni
are valuable – de facto, then this reframing enables the parties
to convert the senior executive’s relationship to an alumnus
relationship, provided that the alumni programme is robust
and meaningful. Otherwise the reframing will be derided as
mere semantics.
When the organisation demonstrates with real resources and
with cases studies rather than asserting the value of alumni,
then the exiting senior executive will value and want to be part
of the give and take culture of the best alumni programmes.
Once the reframing process is complete, the organisation can
move to the second step which is to give each exiting senior
executive an alumnus induction programme instead of so
called “outplacement”. Whilst there are exceptional providers
this process receives very mixed press2. The main complaint is
that some providers increasingly offer standardised services,
2 For example August 20, 2009, Wall Street Journal, headlined
“Outplacement Organisations Struggle to Do Job,”;
which some say offer little value. Few employers track
whether outplacement works.
The advantage of replacing outplacement with alumnus
induction is the extent to which a significant proportion of the
spend can drive value to the organisation which would
normally have been lost through outplacement. The objective
of the induction programme is to create a bespoke strategy for
the exiting senior executive following an assessment of
transferable skills and options including in-house, nonexecutive
directorships, philanthropy, and business
opportunities within a rich alumni programme context.
Whilst Alumni programmes are very advanced in academic
environments they are in their infancy in businesses. This is
because a short term out of sight, out of mind culture still
dominates many business cultures despite growing evidence
of the impact of disintermediation, social networks, virtual
teams and the decline of the “social contract” between
employers and employees.
Professional services organisations are ideal contexts to
develop strong alumni programmes. McKinsey for example
has nearly 23,000 alumni whereby former consultants make
and sustain professional relationships. They see this “dynamic
network is a lasting benefit of a McKinsey career”3. Alumni are
also provided with a restricted access portal.
This paper proposes an even more radical engagement with
alumni. This would involve an investment of time, resources
and the redirection of “outplacement” funding. Whilst the
returns on first analysis may seen purely “soft” it is the
contention of this paper that hard cash returns from new
business and improved performance would quickly follow.
The detailed processes required to maximise the probability of
these outcomes will be detailed in a forth coming paper.
© Ciarán Fenton 2011
Management for Business Leaders
Strategy – Performance – Transition
Fenton & Co LLP
33 St. James’s Square, London SW1Y 4JS
t +44 (0) 207 754 0335 f +44 (0) 871 433 6145 w
3 http://www.mckinsey.com/alumni.aspx

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