Resignations often come from employees we’re sorry to see go, employees who receive heartfelt farewell messages from the entire team. But the end of a worker’s tenure with your company doesn’t have to be a permanent loss. In fact, their leaving could be an important stepping stone to a highly valuable re-hiring down the line.
In 2021, 47.4 million people resigned, followed by over 50 million in 2022. Voluntary employee turnover continues to rise, resulting in a larger pool of top talent available in the job market. This presents ample opportunities to recruit highly productive workers, including those you've employed in the past.
In this article, we discuss the benefits of rehiring former employees. We also look at the best practices to use, and the four biggest drawbacks to consider before re-employing a former worker.
The Past Employee Rehiring Process
Most of the employee rehiring process mimics the initial hiring and onboarding process. However, there are some additional factors to consider, including:
The Job Interview
It’s critical to start the process of rehiring a former employee off with something akin to the standard job interview, regardless of your familiarity with them. However, your priorities should be different when interviewing a past employee.
Instead of focusing on the candidate’s prior work history or academic background, you should be focused on what they’ve learned since leaving your company, and their reason for wanting to return.
Candidates who are returning because of a bleak job market, for example, are a risky gamble. They’ll likely leave your company again as soon as something better comes along. On the other hand, returning workers who are eager to showcase new skills are great candidates for rehire.
If they’re currently employed with another company, it’s worth finding out why they are keen to leave before you give them another chance. It could be that they are struggling with a harsh workload or an abrasive manager. Those who are just running back to your company’s sense of familiarity are also likely to move on again once they’ve licked their wounds and recovered.
The Onboarding and Orientation Process
Returning employees who pass the interview process should undergo another onboarding or orientation process. However, this doesn’t need to be as lengthy or as intensive as their initial training period. Most of the knowledge is still there, but they will likely need a refresher course in addition to updates on what changed since they left.
Whatever you do, don’t forego this kind of guidance entirely, or regular times for checking in. Returning employees need a positive onboarding experience, even if they’re already familiar with the company and the nuances of the job. A positive onboarding experience has been proven to strengthen employee retention. Plus, you don’t want them to feel taken for granted.
The Advantages of Rehiring Former Employees
There are numerous advantages to rehiring former employees. While some of these can be exclusive to your industry or organization, others are applicable to any employer.
The process of rehiring former employees is more affordable than that of recruiting and onboarding new ones. According to Harvard Business Review, returning employees can save your company as much as 50% when compared to new workers.
This is largely to do with how familiarity with processes can speed up an employee’s expected window between joining your team and adding measurable value.
Former employees are already familiar with your day-to-day operations, expectations, and corporate culture. Most will have no problem getting back into the swing of things within a day or two.
Many employees return after making personal improvements that will affect their career performance. This can include the addition of soft skills, subject knowledge, or outside experience in leadership. This should be true of employees who have stayed at your company also. However, rehiring a person who has made inroads elsewhere allows you to benefit from their knowledge and insight gained outside the company.
Additional Training or Education
Employees often leave to pursue additional training or continuous education. Or, if they simply left to work elsewhere, they may have undergone skills training through their job. If these former employees return to your company at a later date, they’ll do so with added skills and knowledge that you can put to good use.
Regardless of their reason for leaving before, employees who return to their prior role will do so with clear expectations of your company and its corporate culture. Likewise, you’ll know exactly what to expect from their performance and personality.
Boosting Team Morale
Returning employees can serve as an inspiration for your entire team. These people have a unique vantage point to make accurate comparisons between your company and the industry as a whole – reminding your workers of how great your company is.
The Pitfalls of Rehiring Former Employees
Before racing to rehire all of your former employees, there are some drawbacks to consider. Keep these caveats in mind while you consider a boomerang hire.
Missing Credentials or Qualifications
Consider the qualifications the role requires now that may not previously have been relevant, especially if new technology has been implemented since they left. Whether the requirements of their old job have changed or if they’re being re-recruited to fill a role with greater responsibility, overlooking the lack of qualifications of a former employee might be setting yourself – and them – up for failure.
Assumptions Based on Old Standards
We’ve established that an employee would be as well-suited to your company if they are returning to a workplace that is very similar to what they left behind. However, if your processes, management style, or strategic goals have significantly changed in their absence, this would be an unfair assumption to make.
Be very clear in the interviewing process about changes the company has made to manage the former employee's expectations. In addition, it is important to be objective about filling the role. Just because the person was a perfect fit previously does not mean they will be the right hire now.
Potential to Leave Again
Former employees always have the potential to leave again. A recent study at Purdue University shows that this risk is especially prevalent when rehiring managerial staff. Employees who feel no sense of loyalty to the company are poor candidates for a boomerang hire, such as those who have left and returned several times, or workers with inconsistent motivation or interest in their work.
Assumed Seniority Entitlement
Some returning employees will feel a misplaced sense of seniority entitlement. In other words, they may incorrectly assume that their history with the company implies something about their rank. If it is necessary, remind these employees that their original tenure – and the intrinsic seniority that came with it – were forfeited when they left the company.
Sticking to Outdated Methods
Returning employees might be resistant to change. If you’ve recently installed new production equipment, implemented new software, revised your policies and procedures, or made any other major changes, make sure your returning employees are willing to learn these new methods.
Why Do Employees Leave?
If you’ve ever rehired a former employee – or if you’re currently considering it – you should have a good idea of why they left in the first place. Based on this, consider whether rehiring them will result in the same reasons for resignation.
Even if you don’t know the specifics, it’s helpful to understand some of the most common reasons that cause employees to leave their jobs. This can give you some insight for reducing employee turnover. Here are the most common reasons employees resign.
General Unhappiness or Dissatisfaction with Work
There are many factors that could be making your workers uncomfortable or unhappy on a daily basis, including:
- Scheduling conflicts between work and personal life, such as having to leave early to pick up children from school or to provide care to an elderly parent.
- Disagreements with coworkers and other signs of poor company culture.
- Lack of paid sick days or paid vacation time.
- Managerial issues such as micromanagement or toxic leadership.
- Insufficient pay
- Insufficient recognition
- A lack of incentives and rewards
- Chronic or recurring sickness or disease
Addressing these issues will help you minimize employee turnover and boost retention rates. However, there are some issues that are simply beyond your control. One example would be chronic or recurring sickness that makes working impossible for them.
New Job Offers
Employees often leave to pursue other job offers or new opportunities for career development. If it is only a matter of compensation or title, you might be able to offer a comparable promotion in order for them to stay. Other times, however, you have no choice but to let the employee follow their dreams.
If an employee is still in good standing with your company, let them know that you’d be willing to rehire them down the line. This is a great way of keeping your company’s name fresh on their mind while reiterating your interest in having them as part of your team.
Worker Fatigue or Burnout
Employee fatigue is a common reason that can cause an otherwise happy worker to quit their job. Burnout caused by work will almost certainly create a negative association for the employee. Exhaustion that pushes them to the point of resigning does not bode well for the likelihood that they will want to work at your company again.
Luckily there are some steps you can take to minimize the stress causing employee burnout and bolster productivity at the same time, including to:
- Recognize the hard work, contributions, milestones, and achievements of your workers.
- Provide constructive feedback and tips for useful improvement.
- Offer flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities when possible.
- Avoid mandatory overtime and harsh production quotas that will strain them.
- Allow paid time for employees to rest and take care of themselves.
- Make employee wellness a business priority.
How to Find Former Employees You Intend to Re-hire
Former employees can be hard to find. With people relocating to new homes and cities, changing phone numbers, and even leaving an industry altogether, some of them just aren’t easily contactable.
Here are some measures you can take to reconnect:
- Traditional means: Start by using traditional means of contacting former employees, including telephone, email, and surface mail.
- Social media: Many individuals maintain an active presence on social media sites, with many using LinkedIn for their professional profile and online resume.
- Internal talent pool: Some organizations maintain an internal talent pool. This is especially true of seasonal industries where workers come and go on a rotational basis.
- Temporary work agencies: Former employees can often be found working with temp agencies. This is most likely when a worker leaves your company before securing a new job.
- HR database: Make sure to check your company's HR records. There would likely be contact details for the employee or an assigned next-of-kin. This typically includes contact details for their spouse or a parent.
- Recruiting software: Recruiting tools are capable of scrubbing extensive databases that reach far beyond your internal systems.
To find out how you can use recruitment technology to make the process of finding and rehiring former employees easier, read our breakdown of the best recruiting software available on the market today.
Making the Most of Rehired Employees
There is a lot of value in rehiring former employees. This value can range from minimizing onboarding expenses, to bolstering your workforce with role models that are already familiar with the job.
As long as your boomerang hire is the right fit for your company, there is no reason you shouldn’t bring them back onboard.