photo of Matthew J. Stollak, Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Matthew J. Stollak, Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Last year, I attended my 30th high school reunion. In the era of Facebook and Snapchat, at first glance, the idea of a reunion seems superfluous. Friends and acquaintances regularly post pictures and updates.  One can quickly determine who’s hair has turned gray, who has gained weight, who is balding, etc. There is no Dorian Gray picture hiding in the attic.  Is there a point?

At the same time, reunions today now provide an opportunity for more in-depth and meaningful conversation, as many of the initial discussions happen on a regular basis in real time before that face-to-face meeting.

Organizations are similarly seeing reunions of a different sort. What was once considered verboten, former employees are now returning to their previous employers.  With unemployment low, companies are relying on alumni networks and re-recruiting departed employees to fill open positions. However, just building on past successes may not be sufficient. Employees used to stay with a single company for their entire lives. Now, careers are shorter than vocations are. How then, might companies rethink their development model?

In the NFL, there exists a coaching tree, which describes the relationship between a coach and an assistant who has moved on to greener pastures. For example, Bill Parcells and Bill Walsh had a cadre of former assistants (Mike Holmgren, Bill Belichick) who went on to lead their teams to Super Bowl success.

Academy Companies work in the same fashion by providing a place to start one’s professional career and emphasize an “up and out” mentality.  Academy companies succeed by linking training and development objectives directly to organizational goals. PepsiCo, Proctor & Gamble, and General Mills are examples of businesses that have used this approach to great success. Not only does it serve as a great recruiting tool for potential candidates, but it positions the HR department as a valuable contributor to successful management. Also, while some employees do leave, those that remain provide a stronger bench for the organization.

Like Bill Walsh or Bill Parcells, are excellent managers noted for their ability to develop great talent? Are reward systems established that recognize managers who develop the abilities of others to perform? As much as businesses invest in their talented employees, a compensatory effort should also reflect the work of great mentors and coaches.

There is a fear among many organizations about investing in the development of their employees. As the story goes:  a CFO asks her CEO, “What happens if we spend money training our people, and then they leave?”  The CEO responds “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?” Active Academy Companies with appropriate manager recognition will not only enable your business to develop a robust talent pipeline, but it will also allow a heartfelt reunion with former employees yearning to return.

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