Very useful – if slightly flawed – Lucy Kellaway piece on writing your own bio in the FT…

Useful  Lucy Kellaway piece on writing your own Bio in the FT. However  I don’t agree with her  that the bios of business people need to be “dull and boring” by comparison with others provided, of course, that they have the courage to tell the truth about themselves. Their stories can be compelling. There are seven billion people on this planet. There are millions of businesses. The latter claim that they have an “USP”. They don’t. Businesses are “simply better” or not than the competition. People, on the other hand, are unique and can claim a genuine USP if the dare to be themselves.

Ciaran Fenton

Fenton & Co LLP

All “leavers” are Alumni. Why not maximise return on your alumni? Maximise the chances of referred business. Minimise the chances of litigation. Maximise the performance of those left behind.

All “leavers” are Alumni. Whether you loved them or not. You and they have invested heavily in each other. They leave with vast amounts of your data and, above all,  relationships. Why let this value slip away, simply because they are leaving your organisation? Your organisation is not the center of the universe. In fact since careers are micro-businesses you should think of your organisation as a very temporary  vehicle for these. So, why not maximise return on your alumni? Maximise the chances of referred business. Minimise the chances of litiagtion. Maximise the performance of those left behind.

White Paper: DRAFT V1

Alumni Programmes for senior long service employees (£150k +): – 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 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” mode[1], and I use these terms as Eric Berne intended and acknowledge that leavers 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. In addition, its 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” negotiates and works with the “micro-business” leaver. This merely reflects the reality. The senior executive is 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 organisaton was one of joint venture partner or service provider and this changes the context of the exit.


Provided the firm commits to a belief that all alumni are valuable – de facto, then this reframing enables the parties to convert the partnership relationship to an alumnus relationship, provided that the alumni programme is robust and meaningful. Otherwise the reframing will be derided as mere semantics.


If the firm demonstrates with real resources and with case studies rather than asserting the value of alumni, then the leaver 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 leaver an alumnus induction programme instead of so called “outplacement”. Whilst there are exceptional providers this process receives very mixed press[2]. The main complaint is that some providers increasingly offer standardised services, 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 leaver following an assessment of transferable skills and options including new fulltime roles, non-executive 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 firms are particularly ideal contexts to develop strong alumni programmes but the process should work for most sectors. 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

[1] Eric Berne, Transactional Analysis

[2] For example August 20, 2009, Wall Street Journal, headlined “Outplacement Firms Struggle to Do Job,”;