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5 questions to ask before you rehire a former employee

Before you extend an offer to the one that got away, think through a few matters first.

5 questions to ask before you rehire a former employee
[Photo: Cytonn Photography/Unsplash]

In the search for talent, great hires may be closer than you think—including your former employees. In a recent ZenBusiness study, 57% of employers said they would rather rehire a former employee than an equally qualified new applicant and more than three-quarters (76%) of those who have done so were glad they did.

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Employees like the idea, too. Nine in 10 employees would consider working for a former employer, and the average “boomerang” employee gets a 20% bump in salary, according to the survey.

Former employees tend to know the ropes and can often get up to speed quicker than a brand-new employee, says David Lewis, CEO of Norwalk, Connecticut-based HR consulting firm OperationsInc. The company has 94 employees, and Lewis says he’s rehired roughly 20 “boomerang” employees over the course of the company.

When good employees leave the company on positive terms, he sends an email message wishing them well and encouraging other employees to do the same. Then, he typically keeps in touch with them. He says, on a handful of occasions, “there’s almost this level of relief on the other end of the phone saying, ‘Actually, I’m really kind of glad you called because it’s not going all that great,'” he says. “I’m just immediately like, ‘Well let’s just be very clear, if you want to come back, you can come back.'”

But there are some caveats and considerations, he admits. Here are five questions to ask before you rehire a boomerang employees.

Why did they leave?

Hiring back an employee who has gone out into the world and gotten some new experience or made some notable achievements could offer some benefits, says Mark Kluger, founding partner at the management-side employment law firm Kluger Healey. But if the reason the employee left was involuntary termination, you’ll obviously want to think about the circumstances related to that action. “Any time somebody has been terminated, there’s presumably good reason for it,” Kluger says. Other times, employees leave because they think the grass is greener somewhere else. If that’s not the case, they may return with a new appreciation for the company.

Lewis recommends thinking carefully about the reasons and manner in which the employee left. It there was something or someone who made them dissatisfied with the company, and that situation or person is still in place, then it’s likely similar issues will arise again, he says.

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Are they suited to the job offered?

If the employee gained new skills or was in a higher position after they left your company, think about the position and growth potential you can offer, says ZenBusiness‘s Joey Morris, who authored the study. “An employee that left and is being rehired always poses the risk of leaving again, obviously. A rehired employee could also feel a certain sense of entitlement, having worked at the position before,” he says.

Despite this risk, the study found that more than half (55%) of boomerang employees were more satisfied after their rehire.

Do other employees want them back?

Don’t make the decision to bring back a boomerang employee alone, Lewis advises. Get feedback about the decision from others and consider their responses.

“You want to be perfectly certain and sure that your perception of that individual is consistent with what others’ views look like as well,” he says. You may sit down with your team and find out that the individual wasn’t effective or well-liked, and bringing them back is going to cause a morale or performance issue with other employees.

What legal and compliance issues do you face?

Be sure you know the federal, state, and local employment laws that apply to your company when it comes to rehires, Kluger advises. State and federal labor authorities generally frown on rehiring an employee as an independent contractor, and as labor laws get stricter in some areas, think carefully before doing so. In some areas, such as New York and New Jersey, the employee may be due previously accrued sick leave if rehired within six months. In general, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your legal counsel about any employment law issues you may face.

What benefit will they bring the company?

Be sure that the decision to rehire an employee is a sound one rather than a comfortable one, Lewis says. Some people may seek their former job back because they can’t handle their new role or the changes that accompany it. And while hiring someone you know may feel like an easy decision, you should still discuss expectations, he adds.

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“It’s incumbent upon an organization to have an honest conversation, a direct conversation with the candidate before you forge into bringing them back in,” he says.

Boomerang employees may be good solutions to filling roles in a tight labor market. But, be sure you head off potential pitfalls before you make the offer.

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About the author

Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books

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