Since the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated individuals and businesses globally, many countries and sectors are slowly and safely getting back to work. Whereas some organisations have been forced to make redundancies or delay hiring plans, thousands of other Engineering and technology companies have never been busier supporting and connecting the nation.
Skills shortages have long plagued the technical sectors, and with employee turnover at its highest levels in 10 years, former staff members may hold the key to plugging the talent gap. Whilst over 3million workers choose to leave their every year, 40% of employees say they would consider returning to a company where they previously worked.
Here are five pros and five cons to the argument of reinstating former staff members.
When accounting for direct recruitment time, resourcing and costs, and factoring in the 6 months the average new starter will need to acquire the skills and knowledge to deliver a high standard of work, the average cost to recruit one new employee is over £30,000. Hiring a former employee dramatically reduces recruitment costs.
Experienced new starters will also enable savings on investment into onboarding and training. HR departments will be able to forego an extensive on-boarding plan as the new hire will already be familiar with people, systems and processes, and unless major systems and team structures have been updated since the employee was last working in their previous role, the individual will only require a limited amount of external or internal training.
No one knows a business better than those with years of experience working within it. The first-hand knowledge of the business’ goals, values, systems, processes, relationships and ways of working enables a return hire to hit the ground running. In addition to increased efficiencies, this person will be able to deliver a far greater number and quality of projects, new customers or outputs relevant to their role that make a significant contribution to the bottom line and short-term business growth.
The high ROI is further supported by lower risk: HR and managers can feel assured that this person is truly up to the job at hand given their proven competencies. The rehire will know the exact activity, performance and outputs expected of them, how these will be measured and how their role relates to the wider business. The new starter will also be a guaranteed culture fit, having already established strong relationships and good rapport with their teams and will be able to capitalise on the credibility they have already built with their colleagues.
If the rehire performed well in their previous role, managers can expect the same high performance of the skilled and experienced employee. With the knowledge and skills gained in the time taken away from the company, coupled with a desire to prove their loyalty, the rehired individual may even perform even better.
Experience gained at other companies will have provided the worker with a better idea of their own strengths and weaknesses, and they will have a better idea of their chosen career path and the development they need to improve. Managers will also be more informed about the strengths and weaknesses of a rehire than a new employee, and can closely involve the individual in putting together a performance and development plan right from the beginning, empowering the employee to be more productive and effective, much more quickly than completely new employees.
For decades HR professionals have operated policies against rehiring employees who left in good standing, although this has significantly changed in the past few years due to business’ increasing awareness of employee engagement.
Whilst the rehired employee once chose to leave the company, they also actively chose to come back: out of all the thousands of organisations they could have joined and exciting opportunities they could have enjoyed, their previous employer was their top choice. This individual is well informed on the negative aspects of the company and any challenges they will face in returning, but has after much thought developed a strong affinity with the company and decided that this employer best matches their current personal and professional needs.
The rehired employee can be viewed as much more actively engaged, and therefore more likely to succeed in their role, and may be far more unlikely to want to leave the company for a second time.
Rehiring a previous member of staff will necessitate honest conversations about why they left the first time and what changes will need to be made on both sides for a second successful employment experience. Managers and HR leaders can utilise this honest feedback to identify challenges faced by other employees and generate new ideas and solutions to improve the internal culture and working experience for all individuals a across the organisation.
The rehired worker can also act as a real-life example for current employees – especially new starters – to evidence that the organisation presents a better choice of working experience than its competitors. This individual can perform a role of confidant for struggling colleagues, encourage others to share their worries and dissuade them from leaving the company by sharing their own experiences. Allowing former employees to return also positions the organisation as a positive, empathetic and human employer in the eyes of its employees.
Whilst there are many positive results to be gained from rehiring, for both employer and employee, both sides must be agreed that returning is the right choice for this individual. This person chose to leave once before – the reason behind their departure must be addressed. Whether toxic colleagues or internal disputes, a lack of progression or simply dissatisfaction with their day-to-day work, they chose to leave behind something that was bothering them, which unless major changes have been implemented since their departure will not be rectified automatically.
Conduct a full interview with the individual and their line manager with the aim of honesty from all parties. Why did this employee choose to leave? What would have made them stay? How have they changed since they left their role, and what will they do differently to and what do they need to ensure they are successful and happy?
On the other hand, if an employee has returned to the organisation after several years, major changes can make it more difficult for a rehire to adapt. Mergers and acquisitions, business expansion and employee growth, diversified strategies or even just changes in personnel can prove challenging for employees who worked in a markedly different way in their old role. Employees who were previously senior in the organisation may feel that they know better than newer colleagues and challenge new systems and processes, and even create a negative atmosphere by complaining that previous ways of working were superior, damaging teamwork and morale.
HR teams and managers can ensure the rehire has realistic expectations, and invite them to meet new key staff members to ensure cultural and team fit. Honest conversation and agreement around ways of working and necessary outputs will ensure all parties are happy with the rehiring arrangement.
Just because the individual was judged the best applicant for their role at the time, they are not necessarily the best person for the job months or years later. By accepting a former employee without opening up the recruitment process to the wealth of talent existing outside of the organisation, businesses could be missing out on vital skills and experience that would take the role to a different level and make an even greater impact on the organisation.
The unconscious bias of hiring managers towards previous colleagues could also result in groupthink, where co-workers fall back into old patterns rather than being challenged and energised by new talent with different experiences and ideas. Diverse teams with a variety of backgrounds and experiences are more innovative, more creative and ultimately more successful; rehiring removes the opportunity to diversify teams and departments with fresh knowledge and experiences.
The rehire will be aware that the company has saved money, time and resources in hiring them rather than conducting a long recruitment process extensively assessing other applicants, and that they have also saved money that would have been spent on internal or external training. If former employees departed the business for higher salaries, more responsibility or better benefits, they will have assimilated to their most recent perks and will be more likely than other applicants to ask for greater financial renumeration or rewards.
In their previous role, the individual will most likely have reached the salary or responsibility limit of their band or group, and will be aware of this. If the rehire begins their second employment stint at the top of their group, increased pay rises and career development will be required to keep them happy and retain them, which could be perceived as unfair to other employees and breed resentment amongst colleagues. Expectations must be clearly set by all parties, with rewards and remuneration changes transparent from the very beginning, to ensure the alignment of career goals and teams.
Rehires may also have left the business due to a lack of career progression and perceived development opportunities. If the former employee felt that they had reached the ceiling of their career with the business, this will not have changed unless opportunities for development within the organisation have also changed. HR teams and line managers can work with rehired staff to create a Personal Development Plan that ensures the individual is able to progress their career every month and work towards their professional goals.
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