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To Rehire or Not to Rehire?

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Over the past decade, many companies have been forced to downsize their workforces to remain competitive. One overlooked outcome of downsizing is the option for businesses to bring back displaced workers. Recent research shows a nearly 50-50 split between companies that are welcoming former employees and others that do not practice hiring back. If you are in a position to rehire someone, there are many factors to weigh in and possible scenarios to prepare for.

Boomerangs Can Work

With professionals becoming increasingly mobile, the phenomenon of “boomerang” employees is booming these days. Some depart for greener pastures and discover that what they had wasn’t so bad after all. “The trend now is for progressive hiring managers to make realizations of their own when they’ve let go of valuable employees,” says HR consultant Andy McKee. “Many are adopting a hire back policy because a former employee is familiar with the company and can excel faster than it takes a new recruit to get up to speed.”

Another positive is that a former employee can bring a fresh perspective once they have explored other options. Fellow employees can talk to a rehire and learn about what they are missing and appreciate what they have. “There’s no shame in welcoming back people on either side of the equation,” says McKee. “Many professionals relocate to follow spouses or to take the next career step with another organization. Sometimes when they return, they are at a higher level.”

The Caveats of Welcoming Back

Some believe that welcoming former employees back to the fold sends the wrong message to coworkers. “When job hoppers wind up back at the company they left, their colleagues can feel like their loyalty is not being rewarded,” says career counselor Joyce Carson. The issue becomes particularly thorny when people return in a higher capacity than when they left. “It can affect morale and make people wonder why they weren’t trained and groomed to advance,” says Carson.

Then there’s the issue of why a worker left in the first place. “Managers are smart to recall how someone handled moving on,” says Carson. “If an employee left badmouthing the company and being unprofessional, they are not someone you should be welcoming back with open arms.”

As baby boomers shun early retirement, the number of boomerangs is likely to increase. How hiring managers respond to the trend to take back in the future remains to be seen. It’s best for hiring managers to adopt a firm policy on rehires and put it into practice. Studies show that when you are consistent about hiring back people, coworkers are less apt to have problems when they return.

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