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One of your top performers left your company for what seemed like greener pastures—perhaps a lucrative offer from a competitor or a desire for a new challenge. Fast forward several months or even years, and there they are, back at your door, eager to return. Turns out the grass wasn’t greener on the other side. Do you rehire them? 

Rehiring a former employee is a significant decision, fraught with both potential benefits and risks.  

To navigate this complex choice, consider these five pivotal questions: 

1. Why did they leave initially?

Let’s start with a crucial point: why did they leave in the first place? It’s a straightforward question, but the answer carries weight. If the reasons for an employee’s initial departure aren’t addressed or acknowledged, history might just repeat itself. 

The Deep Why – The Age of ThrivabilityMaybe they left for a higher salary. Perhaps it was a search for a better work-life balance, or maybe they felt there wasn’t room for growth. According to a study by Aon, the overall employee attrition rate in India was 21.5% in 2021. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to understand it. If similar circumstances or issues still exist, what’s stopping them from leaving again? 

Ignoring or overlooking the initial reasons can lead to a short-lived reunion. It might even give other employees a reason to question the company’s commitment to resolving concerns. While rehiring can bring back talent and familiarity, it’s vital not to sweep past issues under the rug. 

2. Why does the employee want to return?

“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” – Vernon Law 

Missing former colleagues is not a good reason. Nor is failure in subsequent jobs. What you want to hear is that the employee has had time to learn, grow, and develop new capabilities – and that they feel confident that their new knowledge can benefit your company. According to a LinkedIn survey, 75% of HR professionals in India are open to the idea of rehiring former employees. Most importantly, by giving them an easy solution by offering them a job, you might be setting them up for failure. You are not letting them live in the world of uncertainty and what it means to take a more informed decision before quitting. 

3. Is There a Chance of Possible Residual Issues? 

One primary concern with rehiring former employees revolves around any unresolved issues from the employee’s previous tenure. Rehiring might not just bring back talent; it might also resurrect past challenges. 

How to Manage Problem Employees

Every employee, at some point, may face conflicts, disagreements, or misunderstandings with colleagues, supervisors, or the management at large. When an employee leaves and then returns, there’s a risk that these unresolved issues can resurface. Past grudges, disagreements, or even simple misunderstandings can disrupt the current workplace harmony. 

Furthermore, if the reason for their initial departure was linked to any company-wide problems or concerns, those issues might once again come to the forefront. The returning employee could reignite discussions or debates that the company had moved past, unintentionally stalling progress. 

Another aspect to consider is the team’s perception. If team members were previously aware of any conflicts or disagreements involving the returning individual, they might harbor reservations or concerns about the rehire. This can affect team cohesion and dynamics. 

4. Stagnation Concerns? 

If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling back. Rehiring former employees can sometimes hit a snag called stagnation. There’s comfort in familiarity, sure, but there’s also the risk of the ‘same old, same old.’ A returning employee might slide right back into their previous ways of working, thinking, and collaborating. But is that always a good thing? 

Fresh hires often bring in new ideas, diverse experiences, and different perspectives. They challenge the status quo and can infuse energy into a team. On the other hand, someone returning might be perceived as a step back into old habits or routines. 

Teams evolve, and so do businesses. What worked before might not be the best fit now. If a returning employee isn’t adaptive, they might find it hard to align with the team’s current direction. 

Plus, companies thrive on innovation and progress. The worry with rehiring is that it could hamper that momentum. That said, it doesn’t mean it’s a given. With the right approach, returning employees can be encouraged to bring in fresh insights from their time away. 

It’s a balance. Recognizing the potential for stagnation and actively working against it ensures that rehiring remains a strength, not a setback. 

5. How Do You Manage Expectations?  

Rehiring former employees who quit comes with a unique set of expectations, both from the returning individual and the company. There’s often an unspoken belief that the rehired individual will hit the ground running or that they’ll mesh seamlessly with the team, just like in old times. But is this always the case? 

413,600+ Expectations Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock | Expectations business, Waiting, Surprise

On the flip side, the returning employee might anticipate sliding back into their former role or expect certain privileges based on their history with the company. They might think they’re in for the same experience, but companies change, roles evolve, and dynamics shift. 

Mismatched expectations can lead to disappointment, friction, or even conflict. The returning employee might feel they’re not receiving the support or resources they anticipated. Meanwhile, the company might feel the individual isn’t living up to their potential or fitting in as smoothly as hoped. 

Managing these expectations is crucial. It’s not about curbing enthusiasm or dampening excitement but about ensuring clarity. 

Balancing Pros and Cons 

A blend of pros and cons accompanies the decision to rehire former employees. On the positive side, companies benefit from familiarity with the company culture, reduced training times, a known track record, heightened loyalty, and clear economic advantages. 

However, the flip side presents challenges like lingering residual issues, perceptions that could affect team morale, concerns of stagnation, unresolved reasons for their initial departure, and managing heightened expectations. 

As with many business decisions, it’s about balance and foresight. For a prosperous rehiring experience, companies should meticulously weigh these factors, ensuring their choice aligns with both immediate needs and long-term growth objectives. 

Sandesha Jaitapkar

Author Sandesha Jaitapkar

Chief Operating Officer at Artha Group of Companies

More posts by Sandesha Jaitapkar

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