Should You Rehire a Former Employee?

Greeting Returning EmployeeEmployees quit their jobs for all sorts of reasons: better opportunities, more money, advancement, better benefits, etc.  But sometimes circumstances change, and those employees want to return.

Is this an opportunity to capitalize on an asset you’ve already invested in?  Or are you taking a gamble on someone who has already made the break in mind, body and spirit?

You Must Understand Why the Employee Originally Left

It’s important to understand why  the employee left in the first place.

When an employee resigns, do an exit interview.  Give them the opportunity to provide you with constructive feedback about their job, supervisor, and the company.  This is a chance for you to see through the eyes of an employee and to make improvements.

If you have the chance to rehire this same employee, you’ll want to ensure that the issues that contributed to their departure have changed or can be corrected.

The Advantages & Disadvantages of Rehiring an Employee

There are certainly advantages to bringing an employee back: 

  • You have already invested time and money to train them to work in your business
  • They are already familiar with your company’s culture
  • They know what to expect and will hit the ground running much faster than another new employee could
  • They already have relationships with staff members and your customers and/or vendors as well

 There are disadvantages to consider as well:

  • Your business has probably changed since the employee last worked there
  • The returning employee must adapt to the changes and not expect things to be just as they were when he or she left
  • Some co-workers may question the returning employee’s level of trustworthiness and loyalty
  • It can take time for a returning employee to rebuild relationships or adjust to new social dynamics

Tips for Successfully Rehiring a Former Employee:

Tip #1:  Scrutinize Your Actions and Motives

Is this the best possible person for the job?  Is there anyone already working in your organization who is qualified or ready for a promotion?  Is this hire based solely on what’s best for the business, or is it based on a personal relationship you have with this person?

Tip #2:  Prepare and Consider Your Current Workforce

Practice open communication with your employees and inform them about the rehire.  Answer their questions to the extent you can, without violating anyone’s right to confidentiality.  Remember that there may be feelings or emotions about an employee who resigned.  The team has reformed without that co-worker.  Consider how this employee will fit in again with their former co-workers, or with a new team of co-workers.

Tip #3:  Pave the Way for Your “New” Employee

Take stock of what has changed since they last worked for you and tell them what is changed in your company.  If there were any issues with their performance previously, this is a great time to do a pre-performance review and set the standard for performance expectations.  Set them up for success from Day One.  This is a rare opportunity.  After all, how often do you know this much about a new hire?

Tip #4:  It’s NOT Business as Usual

Things may quickly feel very familiar as your rehired employee gets down to work.  But keep in mind that they’ve had a break in their employment, and they really are a new employee.  Check in with them on a regular basis to see how it’s going.  Do a 30 day and 90 day review.  You liked them enough to bring them back.  Tell them how much you appreciate them and want them to succeed, and make it happen!

My Personal Experience with Rehiring Employees:

During the time I’ve had my business, there have been two occasions when long-time employees resigned to take jobs with larger firms that offered better pay and benefits.

I stayed in touch with them, periodically checking in on how their new jobs were going.  And after many months, I could hear a note of hesitation in their voices.

For different reasons, their old jobs in my firm had come available again, and I was able to approach them and ask, “Do you want to come back?”  And I was very very lucky that they did!

I’ve referred to that break in their service as “the time that they ran away from home.”  Call them boomerang employees, alumni, or your prodigal children… but whatever you call them, hiring them back can be a smart move on your part if you handle it right!

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