This article was updated on July 30, 2018.
Although HR leaders need to weigh the potential risks and rewards carefully, re-hiring former employees can be a great idea. Don't forget that Steve Jobs was rehired by Apple after he'd left the organization on less than stellar terms, only to return a superstar who led the organization to unprecedented heights.
Here are some pros and cons of bringing former employees back into the fold:
4 Pros of Re-Hiring Former Employees
If you hire a former employee, you don't have to worry about the "fit" of an individual with no prior knowledge of your culture. A new hire's assimilation into your corporate environment is one of the most difficult elements of onboarding, so you are markedly less likely to see cultural problems in the first few months with a former employee. They already come with the knowledge about your organization.
They bring in new skills and perspectives and because of their history with your organization, they are better able to introduce those "new ways of working" after the re-hire. As in the Steve Jobs example, a former employee may grow outside your organization, gaining valuable lessons from elsewhere that they can later integrate into your organization because they know your culture from the inside.
3. Getting Started
Similar to the baked-in cultural fit, re-hiring former employees saves you some of the usual challenges of onboarding a new hire. Moreover, you will likely spend less money in training a re-hire because you've likely previously trained them in many relevant skills.
They can also boost workplace morale. When your employees observe that you are amenable to giving former employees a second chance, it sends a strongly positive message. Because many employees already know the returning employee, you have less risk of disrupting workplace morale when compared to bringing in "an outsider."
2 Cons of "Boomerang Employees"
1. Past Sentiment
There may be hidden resentment on both sides. Depending on the reason the employee and organization separated, there could still be lingering distrust on both sides. If left unresolved, these negatives could not only impact the re-hire's level of engagement but could also impact the entire workplace. Part of HR's key role in any re-hire scenario is to carefully assess why the employee left, and why said employee wishes to return.
For example, if the employee left because a spouse found a great job in another state, or because of a wonderful opportunity elsewhere that you couldn't match, then any return will likely happen on good terms. But the employee may have burned bridges, leaving hurt feelings behind. In that case, careful communication is critical for mutual understanding and a positive re-integration of the worker.
2. Stigma of Return
Questionable loyalty and stigmatization are common sentiments attached to returning employees. Because the re-hire's colleagues know that the re-hire left once before, whether on good terms or not, they may question the re-hire's loyalty going forward and thus not fully engage with the person. Once this happens, it creates bad feelings on all sides and can disrupt workplace/team morale.
The Role of Technology
Your HR and payroll system is important to tracking performance and it can be especially crucial in any re-hiring scenario. You'll want to have access to previous performance reviews for the re-hire candidate to evaluate potential problem areas and determine whether the person has the potential to grow past them. The more HCM data you have on a potential re-hire, the more capable you are of making a sound decision about whether to re-hire them or not. Of course, each re-hire situation is unique, so HR leaders need relevant data on hand to help them weigh the complex pros and cons.
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