Most companies at one time or another have faced the loss of an excellent employee. After years of trailblazing and making deals, a star employee decides to move on to another outfit. His manager and his team are disheartened by the departure. Although you understand sometimes people need to move on, you can’t help but wonder if there’s any way to make them stay or bring them back.

In some cases, it is possible to bring back former employees. These employees have already proven themselves; they know the company and have the experience so they don’t need to be trained or on-boarded. In some cases, if they’ve been working someplace else for some time, they’ll bring new perspectives back to the company. However, not every opportunity to rehire an employee is a good one. If the employee was let go due to a reduction in force, there could be legal matters to consider. The team may not understand why someone was hired back, or the company could be missing out on better candidates out there.

Here are some of the benefits of rehiring former employees.

  • Company knowledge. An employee that has worked at your company for a while has already become familiar with its operations, goals, and objectives. They have been through the company’s orientation process and have an understanding of the company’s inner workings. They have met their coworkers and have probably even forged a few friendships. They’ve also proven themselves as good performers for your company. For all these reasons, it makes sense to want to rehire former employees. They know and understand the company’s culture and procedures. They can hit the ground running the minute they start again, because they’ve already got their bearings. Past employees’ familiarity with the company is a definite motivator for rehiring.
  • Dispelling competitors. Just imagine: one of your star employees, an exceptional performer, has decided to leave your company to accept a position with one of your competitors. Not only is the loss of this great employee regrettable, but also the fact that he’s leaving for a competitor might spur an interest in your other employees to do the same. By contrast, if an employee wants to return after having worked at another company, then his rehire can help dissuade other employees from leaving to join that company. The employee could return and talk to coworkers about how they did things there, why it didn’t work out, and how much better they have it here. Now the ones who were considering looking for greener pastures might need to reconsider.
  • New perspectives. An employee who has been away for a while is likely to have picked up a few tricks along the way. Rehiring an employee might mean gaining an asset with some real insight into how others are doing things, especially in industries that tend to be more competitive like software development and other tech ventures. Even if the employee didn’t leave to work for another company—maybe it was a working mom who got tired of the balancing act, or a manager who decided to dedicate himself full-time to his dream of writing a novel—the rehired employee is coming in refreshed and with a new perspective. This fresh outlook can lead to creative—and potentially profitable—new ways of doing business.

And here are some of the disadvantages.

  • Legal issues. It’s wise to proceed with caution before you consider rehiring former employees. Equal opportunity employment laws can make it complicated to rehire someone, for example, if the position has to be open to other candidates and you receive interest from anyone who is more qualified than the rehire, as they may bring forth a lawsuit for hiring discrimination. Also, if the employee you want to rehire was originally laid off due to budget cutbacks, it’s important to review the company’s policy and the employee’s original contract for language on layoffs and callbacks. Review your company’s policies, as well as the applicable federal and state laws that dictate fair employment practices, to be sure you’re covering all your legal bases with the rehire.
  • Bad blood. Employees depart for any number of reasons—they are let go due to a company’s reduction in force, they get an offer they can’t refuse from another company, they feel tired or bored at their current job, they dislike their new manager or supervisor. The reason why an employee leaves can be at the core of whether you should hire him back or not. If the employee left on bad terms (for instance, if there was a disagreement with management), then hiring him back might not be the best idea. Likewise, rehiring someone may be unhelpful if he left because he disliked his supervisor; if he will have the same supervisor, it’s not going to work. Finally, before doing any rehiring, get a sense of your current employees’ attitudes toward him. The last thing you’d want to do is rehire someone who was an antagonizing force on the team.
  • Better candidates. It’s easy to be wooed by the fact that former employees know the company really well and will be able to start working right away without any training or introduction. Yet don’t let that blind you to other great candidates out there, or even those inside the company. The main goal should always be to hire the best candidate for the job. If that candidate is absolutely, hands-down the one that left, then by all means rehire him. However, if there are others out there who may be more skilled or better suited, then you’re only doing the company a disservice by hiring the less-talented candidate. You also have to watch out for unfair employment practices when hiring someone based simply on the fact that he used to work for the company.

Have you had any success rehiring former employees? Do you think it’s a good idea or not?

Adina Miron

4 Comments

  • Avatar Tiffany says:

    If I had to hire a former employee, I would need to know why he/she left in the first place: it was voluntary, a better offer from the competitors, layoff and so on. After this I would evaluate how would he/she fit the current organization or team and if he/she is the suitable candidate for the job. Just because he/she once worked in the organization doesn’t mean that he/she is perfect for the position. It has a high importance to evaluate all the pros and cons of each rehire on an individual basis to make the best decision.

  • Avatar Mark D. says:

    I have just one question concerning this topic and all of you will understand my position towards hiring former employees: If they have left once, what’s to stop them from leaving again? I prefer to invest more money in the recruitment process than hiring ex-employees.

  • Avatar Chris Collins says:

    I am skeptic when it comes about rehiring former employees? Why? Because nobody leaves a company for no reason and that reason can’t be positive because it will make no sense to leave. It’s essential to know under what circumstances they left the company. If things ended in an unfriendly way, rehiring former employees can be complicated and things may not work well in the long run. Even though the employer did everything that he could to make that unpleasant situation forgotten, the employee may have resentments and those feelings may have grown stronger since he/she left the company.

  • Avatar Stephanie says:

    In my company, rehiring former employees worked unexpectedly well. It had a great impact on employees’ morale. Hiring former employees with good performance creates the perfect environment to bring people who formerly worked well as a team together. In present, such a team is the heart of our company.

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