Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Externship - A Real life Example

A few months ago I had written about Externship. Today I saw an article which talks about externship is some format. Accenture, E&Y are now encouraging its former employees to return. Ex-employees are now being seen as tomorrow’s employee.

Bosses to Ex-Workers: Let's Be Friends
Tuesday December 12, 1:25 pm ET
By Ellen Simon, AP Business Writer
Companies Court Former Employees to Return or Refer New Clients.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The old view of corporate exes -- employees who leave for other jobs -- was that they were deserters and traitors who must never be spoken of again.

The new view: They're a fantastic network.

"Either they're our clients, or potential clients or referrals to other clients," said Jill Smart, chief human resources officer at Accenture Ltd. "They also help as teachers and mentors for our people."

Particularly in a fields where the labor pool is tight, today's ex-employee is seen as tomorrow's current employee. The message: We'll keep a light on for you in your old cubicle.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta sends former nurses the hospital's employee magazine, Careforce Chronicles. The Principal Financial Group sends former employees letters twice a year saying, "We're the same company you enjoyed, consider us again."

Departed employees are courted with official employee alumni networks that offer electronic directories of former colleagues, job listings, continuing education, even discounted group insurance. Microsoft's alumni group rented the entire Seattle Aquarium for its after-the-holidays party last year. Accenture toasted its alumni with drinks and appetizers at New York's Museum of Natural History.

Some departing employees are singled out for a charm offensive.

Audit senior manager Danica Dilligard left Ernst & Young LLP in 2003 after six years with the company. E&Y's courtship began almost immediately. The E&Y partners she'd worked with called, saying, "Just wanted to make sure you're happy. There's always a home for you here." She was invited to E&Y golf outings, where she played in a foursome with the partners. She was included in professional certification courses and welcomed at networking events.

One of the partners' calls came after the hectic run-up to a budget meeting at her new job, where she was a controller overseeing a $300 million operation. She hadn't seen her family all week. She said, "It's time. Can we have lunch?" she recalled.

He promised that if she returned, she'd have more flexibility than she did before, including the time to coach her daughter's cheerleading squad of 45 seven- and eight-year-olds. She returned to E&Y after three years on the other job. Her team at E&Y pushes her out the door on Tuesdays and Thursdays so she can make it to cheerleading practice and the squad has won two local competitions.

The way E&Y's partners tended to their relationship with her is a far cry from how corporations used to see departed workers.

Vandy Van Wagener, who became brand manager of Ivory soap at Procter & Gamble Co. in 1977, remembers how departing executives were viewed then. The day he started his new position, he went to the personnel department to find a photo of the brand manager he'd replaced, who had left for another company. The man's photo was already in the waste basket.

Jerry Stevenson, now a director in the communications practice at Buck Consultants, tells a similar story about Electronic Data Systems Corp. "When I left EDS almost two years ago, all formal communication with the company ended." That was an element of the company's culture, he said. "An old joke within the company went, 'When you leave EDS, they scrape your car off the parking permit.'"

David Arcemont, vice president of global recruiting at EDS disagrees, saying the company has always welcomed back former employees. In 2006, roughly 7.5 percent of hires were returning employees, he said. Gordon Curry, an executive speechwriter at the company, said he was welcomed back as a freelancer four months after he left and was quickly given his old job back, full-time.

Corporate views of past employees may have softened partly because the waves of layoffs that started in the 1980s meant the number of former employees was legion. Many former workers hadn't jumped; they were pushed. When the economy got better, some returned to their old companies as consultants, temps or "boomerang" hires.

In law, accounting and consulting, where relationships are as important as credentials, companies have realized an updated phone, e-mail and title directory of former employees may be one of their greatest assets. Silicon Valley powerhouse law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's alumni network hammers that point home at the top of its Web page, which says, "Powerful contacts. Powerful resources. Staying connected."

Law firm Latham & Watkins LLP gives lawyers it is interviewing access to the alumni directory before they've been hired, so they can start networking with former employees before they even start work. McKinsey & Co.'s employee alumni database has long been viewed as one of the keys to the consulting firm's power.

At some companies, the equation is much simpler. The Principal is based in Des Moines, Iowa, which is now the sixth-oldest state in the nation, as measured by the percent of the total population 65 or older, and finding workers in a shrinking labor pool is a constant challenge. To court its retirees, the company welcomes them at the company gym and wellness center.
Principal worker Macil Hiatt, 72, officially retired in 1998 after a 38-year career, took less than a year off, and has worked there in temp jobs almost ever since.

Hiatt, who remembers when the company got its first coffee machine in 1979, was recently finishing a project in the company's pension department.

"I'm hoping they'll find me something else I can learn to do," she said. "Working keeps you on your toes, keeps your mind alert."

Ellen Simon is a national business beat reporter for The Associated Press, covering labor and workplace issues. Write to her at esimon(at)

Also See:

Externship – Vital Tool in Strategic Human Capital Management
Retaining People in Technical Jobs
Retention of top managers
Use Marketing to Hire and Retain Talent
Accenture Experiments with Rural Outsourcing
Employee Churn is here to stay
Soft Skills For Global Managers
The Value of Talent
Giving Your Top Performers a Reason to Stay

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