From the November 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Used to be that when employees quit, they were considered traitors and told to clean out their desks on the spot. No more. Today, the split is usually amicable; going-away lunches and gifts are common. And it doesn't always end there. When a valued employee leaves your company, there are several reasons to keep in touch.

Former employees who stay in contact with their old bosses will tell others what a good employer you are and what a great place your company is to work at. That kind of person-to-person advertising can bring you more business and help you recruit new employees. The potential for former employees to return later with more skills and experience is another benefit of alumni programs.

Alumni programs aren't just for big businesses. "It's all about creating a mechanism to stay in touch," says Cindy Lewiton Jackson, director of career development and alumni relations at Bain & Co., a Boston-based global strategic consulting firm. "You can do that by inviting them to your holiday party or summer picnic." She also suggests a newsletter with company news updates and short "What are they doing now?" alumni profiles.

Of course, you're only going to have a successful alumni program if your former employees want to stay connected. Realize the person you hire today will likely be a former employee down the road--and start building a lasting relationship the day he or she walks through your front door.

Showing employees you appreciate their work goes a long way toward building a continuing relationship--long after they walk out that door. "It all depends on the culture you foster," says Lewiton Jackson. So when your valued employees get their last paychecks, make sure to celebrate their contributions and accomplishments. And get their new addresses and phone numbers.


Ellen Paris is a Washington, DC, writer and former Forbes magazine staff writer.

Need Help?

There are some surprising finds in the welfare line.

The SBA's Welfare to Work Initiative is now in its third year, but many entrepreneurs still don't know how to get involved or whether it will really help their businesses. To help give entrepreneurs a better idea, the SBA has put together a free tool kit, available in print and online.

"We thought a simple tool kit that would give small-business owners the practical tools needed to hire a person coming off welfare would help [get them involved in the initiative]," explains Zina Pierre, director of the Welfare to Work Initiative. "The tool kit basically lays out for employers the incentives and advantages of hiring people coming off welfare."

Incentives include federal tax deductions and state-paid wage subsidies. According to a survey by The Welfare to Work Partnership, a national nonprofit organization that supports the SBA's initiative, 71 percent of the small businesses involved in the program said welfare-to-work employees are their best workers--eager-to-learn, punctual and hard-working. That could be the best incentive of all. To get a tool kit, call (800) 8-ASK-SBA or visit http://www.sba.gov/w2w.

Next Step

  • To order a Resource Directory of welfare-to-work contact information, call the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Center for Workforce Preparation at (202) 463-5525.

Contact Source

Bain & Co., 2 Copley Pl., Boston, MA 02116, http://www.bain.com