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To Re-Hire or Not to Re-Hire—That is the Question

November 21, 2010
by Tim Tolan
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The pro's and con's of bringing back a former employee

Some organizations have a very strict policy when it comes to bringing back an employee after they have departed voluntarily. Some feel that is they left once they will likely do it again. I get that. On the other hand, if they made a mistake and left for greener pastures and long to return to the great organization they love— MAYBE. If the employee was terminated—NEVER.

 

What do you think? In the competitive market we are all in today we all know the demand for top flight talent will be fierce. No doubt. Under certain market conditions are you willing to bend the rules or are you steadfast in your policy not to rehire? I think it deserves a healthy debate. If the employee was laid off —that's a different story. Let's look at a few pro's and con's of bringing back a former employee:

 

Productivity (+) - Re-hiring a former employee almost assures that they will hit the ground running and that has inherent organizational value. The former employee will likely require little to no ramp time before they are highly productive and begin making an impact. That's a good thing.

 

Organizational Culture (+) They already know the organization and how you operate which should prove to be very positive. Knowing how to get things done and who to go to in order to make an immediate impact and avoid bottlenecks has real value. It would likely take a "newbie" much longer to understand how things are done organizationally.

 

Impact on Existing Staff (-) This could be tricky depending on how they left and what your team thinks about the person in question. After all the staff you have in place could think that since they never left the organization they are much more loyal and deserve some credit for sticking it out. Re-hiring defectors almost condones that leaving is OK and the door will always be "open". You and I know that's not the case for all employees.

 

Implied Knowledge (-) This person could assume that things are business as usual and resort back to the way things were before they left and convey a "know-it-all" attitude to the rest of your team. Not good. Most organizations are dynamic and always changing. If you are still doing everything the way you used to - well that's a whole new issue. They could undermine a former peer who is now a manager - also a big issue.

 

Today's market forces all of us to think differently about talent acquisition if we plan to remain competitive. I don't have the answer on whether you should or should not re-hire. However - you need to figure out the answer to this questions - soon.

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Comments

Joe:

This is my two cents on your questions:

a. Those looking and not finding greener pastures would likely have a much better chance of a re-hire. They would need to be humble and convey why they want to come back.
b. Fired with Cause - is a non-starter. Best to leave this one alone.
c. Often time if an employee is "down-sized" the door is open for a re-hire if they were a solid performer before the re-org. Some re-orgs are driven by earnings, cash flow or a bad market like the one we are in right now. I say yes to a re-hire here.
d. I would want to dig a lot more to understand the WHY before inviting them back on the bus. It's great if they are motivated by other drivers - but how does that benefit the Company? Make sure there is alignment between the two parties.

Hope that helps!

Thanks Tim. How does a corporation get into the situation where they need to re-hire?


a. the person left looking for greener pastures and didn't find sustainable ones. (Very common)

b. they were fired with cause. (You covered that one, but didn't allude to relative incompetence of the person firing. Not common, but it happens enough to make the list.)

c. they were let go in a re-org (budget belt tightening). More often than not, these people are sub-vocalizing "never again." Do you let that go? Do you recognize their prior years of service in weeks of severance? Do you take an anti-Lincoln stance and label them "damaged"? As you pointed out, these people have the productivity and culture positive attribute. There's a very good chance that they left because of their prior manager. Don't ignore that fact; manage to it.

d. Last but not least, the potential re-hire originally joined the company with a sense of unique purpose.

- Maybe it was to make a better world, or
- buy a house, or
- care for a spouse who is medically unable to work, or
- support a child, or
- [in the HCIT] industry, improve the healthcare system
  (often after a strong personal experience).

What ever it is, assuming it's other than "needing a job," understand that during the re-hire process and help make the hire a win-win. This "sense of purpose" fit doesn't happen by accident. Great managers I have known always seek to understand the personal motivation. Poor ones never do.


Again, Tim, thanks for taking on the very important topic of "re-hire." You're absolutely right. It's an important part of building a great organization. To blindly avoid re-hiring is cutting off your nose.

Tim,
This is an excellent treatment of an important issue. Can you comment briefly on the notion that, since corporations cannot reciprocate loyalty for financial reasons, the standard of professionalism has shifted?

Joe:

There are no visible signs that much has shifted if I understand your question. Loyalty is rewarded only if there is also a track record of performance for those that decide to stay put.
Dealing with re-hires is a totally different issue. In the HOT market we are in, companies will have to take a hard look at policy when it comes to re-hires. In some cases openings that require a high skill-set - a re-hire may be the only alternative to solve what is truly a business issue.

Thanks Tim. Once again, we're in violent agreement!
My only point about understanding the candidate was to maximize the chances that they'll want to be sticky; same applies equally for initial hire.  Re-hiring without attention to stickiness, in my experience, is not wise.

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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