The boomerang effect: Re-hire, but do it right

by HCA18 Feb 2014

Former employees and business leaders can represent a valuable untapped talent pool because, unlike external candidates, former senior employees possess valuable insider knowledge of the organisation and its culture. And against a backdrop of talent shortages – in a recent Accenture study, 54% of large businesses that laid off employees in the past year are now having difficulty finding skilled workers for new positions – many organisations can ill afford to ignore them.

Returning employees can also bring an outsider’s insights to new challenges, but, as Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, author of Great People Decisions, has said, the success of bringing back former staff is heavily dependent on how effectively HR reintroduces them into the organisation.

To allow a smooth reintegration it’s imperative that HR clearly communicates to team members exactly why the former employee is being brought back to other company, and especially to any internal candidates who were not successful.

Regardless of the reason the employee’s original term of employment was terminated, there are benefits and shortcomings to rehiring, namely:

Employee morale – If employees see that their employer is actively working to bring back employees, it can have a positive effect on morale — and it can bring people back together who formerly worked well as a team.

Training – Rehired employees understand the company culture, and employers don’t have to retrain them. Even if company structure has changed somewhat since they left, you’re likely looking at a quick brush-up instead of a complete training overhaul.

New perspective — Time away in which a former employee has had a chance to collect new skills and knowledge may benefit not only them and their place in the organisation, but also their employer, once he or she is brought back into the fold.

Resentment – If things ended on a sour note, rehiring former employees can be complicated — and may not work out well in the long run. Even if an employer did everything they could to ease the stress of the situation, an employee may harbour resentment and bitter feelings, and those feelings may have grown stronger since they left the organisation. “People may have worked with you for 20 years, but they’ll remember the last 10 minutes of the relationship most,” Melvin Scales from Right Management notes.

Current employee backlash — Employees who watched someone else leave and then come back may become jealous because a rehired employee is now getting work they were handling and returning “without paying their dues” as a new employee would. After all, remaining employees are often the ones left picking up the extra work when a company downsizes.

Short-termism– It’s important to keep in mind that even if an employee is willing to come back, they may only be accepting the job because they really need one (and are still looking for something better).


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