When you rehire an ex-employee, especially one that was a star, it looks like you are getting a great deal. What you see is what you get. They understand your business and its own unique culture, are immediately productive and bring industry knowledge and new ideas.
The best-case scenario is when an employee wants to return because he has had time to learn new skills and has gained in-depth work experience somewhere else that he can share with you.
The good news about rehiring top performers
Rehiring former employees often costs much less than hiring from scratch, especially since you can cut out the extremely costly recruiting and interview process. When budgets are tight, you can explore this avenue using social media, alumni groups and word-of-mouth to find out who is actively looking.
The potential rehires, also known as boomerangs, are easier to assimilate into the organization and you will save you orientation time. The thinking is that since they know exactly what they’ll be signing up for, they will be likely to stay longer the second time and therefore be less risky, more productive and better for your retention statistics.
There’s also some thought that a rehired person can provide you with a fresh perspective, innovative ideas and some industry intelligence.
So what can go wrong? Quite a lot
Not all former employees are worthy of rehiring. Let’s hope they left for the right reasons and of their own accord. Obviously, you will exclude anyone who was fired, incompetent or unproductive or suddenly has accumulated a criminal record.
Here are a few of the main disadvantages of rehiring former employees:
- Current managers and co-workers may feel threatened if the employee returns with a new set of skills, and especially irritated if they come back onboard with a higher remuneration package, which is quite likely. They may feel an employee already had their chance.
- The reason that they left in the first place may still be a problem: the boss from hell, lack of benefits, poor promotion prospects and/or lack of opportunities to learn.
- There may be unintended consequences if the rehire is appointed at a higher level than his previous role. It may trigger other departures if promotional prospects are blocked, i.e. waiting to fill “dead man’s shoes.”
- Returning employees may just not fit in. The climate and culture of the company may no longer be the same. In this case, their new presence may be disruptive and cause tension.
Develop a rehiring policy
A definite success factor is having a firm policy that is applied fairly to all potential “Comeback Kids.” Who is eligible to be rehired should be agreed upon internally and be legally defensible. Two important elements to include are how long after leaving an employee can return, and what’s a reasonable maximum time to be away.
In some industries, some employers also refuse to rehire an employee who left to go to a competitor. Other organizations may welcome the broader experience and give preference
to ambitious ex-employees who went off to try their hand at consulting or starting their own business.
Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading U.S. consultancy, is such a staunch believer in rehiring that it sponsors a Comeback Kids program, through which it actively reaches out to past employees and those from the military.
A few more things to consider when rehiring
- Make sure the conditions that caused that person to leave are not still barriers. Exit interviews are notoriously unreliable. so it’s best to work out why the employee really left. If he undervalued the company before, has anything changed?
- Is this person really the best candidate for the job? It should not be a quick fix — don’t take the lazy recruiter’s solution.
- Are you overlooking quality internal candidates? Someone else internally might be just as qualified to do the job. Think about the message you’re sending and the possible repercussions of rehiring instead.
Don’t forget to brief the new employee on how things have changed since he left and any new projects that have come up since. A “welcome back” interview shows that your company is open to hiring the best people, whatever their job history.
Would you rehire a great former employee? Let us know by commenting on the story below.