I had the privilege of interviewing three weeks ago Sean Brown at the Graduway Global Leaders Summit, held at the Said Business School, Oxford University. During our talk “From the Boardroom to the Classroom” Sean shared a unique perspective based on over 10 years’ experience running leading corporate and academic alumni networks as a Mckinsey Alumni and then their Global Director of Alumni.
Sean is currently the Global Director of McKinsey’s Alumni Relations, where for the past seven years he has led the management consultancy’s program to engage and strengthen its network of nearly 30,000 former consultants in over 100 countries around the world. Prior to McKinsey, Sean served as the Global Director of Alumni Relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.
Please see below my interview in full with Sean.
The McKinsey Alumni Network
There were a number of amazing insights and alumni relations best practices that Sean shared in the interview, but I want to focus here on just three critical things that I took away as relevant for anyone looking to build and develop a professional network, be it a corporate or an academic institution.
1. Offer a unique value proposition
McKinsey do this by providing their alumni with access to a) exclusive alumni networking via their official alumni directory where all alumni irrespective of their seniority are easily available to one another, b) alumni career services opportunities and top talent for recruitment which strengthens alumni engagement and builds the alumni network and finally c) ongoing access to the firm’s latest thinking via twice-monthly global knowledge sessions with cutting edge content for their alumni. I believe most academic institutions and corporations could provide a similar value proposition if they were focused on this as a goal and prepared to work collaboratively across departments.
2. Provide a secure environment
McKinsey alumni have invested in offering a secure platform and the ongoing authentication of their alumni, which is critical in providing a trusted environment for networking.
3. Create a culture of engagement
Probably the most critical ingredient. McKinsey alumni have created a ‘pay it forward’ culture which everyone is exposed to from day one. In fact, Sean’s explanation of how McKinsey embeds this engagement culture from the moment consultants join the firm echoed what I shared previously from the University of Pennsylvania’s Elise Betz on how to build a culture of philanthropy and engagement.
It was truly inspiring to hear Sean describe McKinsey’s ‘joined-up’ approach to their alumni relations. I believe that there is a significant opportunity for both academic institutions and corporations to also apply these alumni relations best practices, particularly in building that elusive engagement culture.
What do you think are the most important learnings from McKinsey’s approach to alumni relations?
Do you agree that every institution has the potential to create a strong engagement culture?
Which is the biggest barrier in applying this approach to your organization?