Return on Ex-Employees: What Goes Around Comes Around

They say what goes around, comes around – and HR is no exception to this. It’s simple – show your employees some love and they’ll reciprocate by giving you results you’re looking for.

Much as war is too important to leave to the generals, love is too precious to entrust to the romantics. So don’t. Organizations looking for their people to love them better be pragmatic about their idealism. To do “what it really takes to become a company employees love” requires leaders to ask, “What kind of love do we really want from people?”

Hiring a CLO — Chief Love Officer — isn’t the answer. But the question deserves better than executive hand-offs to HR, McKinsey, or Myers-Briggs. No word is more consistently misrepresented, misinterpreted, or misapplied at moments when it matters most. That’s because love creates great expectations.

Archivo base

What expectations should organizations love to encourage and encourage to love? Of course employees should feel and believe that their presence makes a meaningful difference. But, ironically, one of the most powerful and persuasive ways to inspire commitment inside the enterprise is maintaining healthy relationships with high-achievers who’ve left the organization. Talented “exes” should be seen as assets who can make the organization more valuable and an even better place to work.

Just as harsh criticisms by exes demoralize and disrupt, their constructive contributions can have as profound an impact on human capital brands as current employees. So smarter “people analytics” operations embrace mission and metrics that assure they’re getting the right kind of ROEE — Return on Ex-Employees:


Referrals. Everyone in the organization from the C-suite on down notices when former employees generate new business. That’s not just a “vote of confidence” in their own firm but an economic affirmation that they expect excellent value for money. McKinsey is the professional services model for turning former associates and partners into profitably high-profile clients. The quality and professionalism of referrals aren’t just great for its bottom line, they have a hugely positive impact on firm morale. Not only is there “life after McKinsey” but associates know they were being asked to justify the trust and confidence of a former colleague.

Not incidentally, McKinsey maintains both a formal and extensive informal “alumni network” of partners and associates. The firm deliberately invests in its exes as assets, people and part of a community.

Employees who consistently see talented exes coming back to the company they left behind to get quality work done receive a flattering and motivating message.


References. Finding culturally-compatible talent is always challenging. When high-performance exes provide positive references and recommendations to top-tier job candidates, they pay their former employer an enormous compliment. The compliment becomes even greater whenever those candidates impress. As an Accenture partner observed about a colleague who’d left to join a high-profile enterprise software start-up, “He’s a great guy who had a great experience with us for a decade and he interviews people from all over the world dying to work for [his company]. He sends over four or five excellent people every year. … We’re grateful.” Continue Reading.


First published at Harvard Business Review by Michael Schrage

Image Credit: Freepik

Share This Post On
468 ad