Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Now's the time to rehire

Well, you read that right. In today’s market, many companies are facing trouble finding great talent. The point is; employees with great talent aren’t taking chances with new jobs. That’s made recruiting even more challenging!

That’s when you start thinking about rehiring ex-employees.

Let’s say your star-performer John left your company some months back citing better career prospects (role, money, options, location etc.) and joined a start-up. Due to bad market conditions the start-up’s having problems with funding and John has been told to look out for other options (Read: get yourself another job). Now he has to start searching for a new job & you can be quite sure he is thinking of contacting you. Do you reconsider him if you still have a job vacancy to fill?

Here’s a take from both sides of the table.

For ex-employee(s):

- DO NOT BURN BRIDGES! That’s the worst thing you can do when you are leaving for a new job. Apart from references, you may find future need to reach your previous manager for getting rehired or even applying at a company he works for!
- Asking to get rehired means you need to do some ‘ego-swallowing’. Unless you are sure, don’t ask.
- Make your reasons valid enough to get rehired. Be truthful.
- Be ready to accept a ‘No’ from the company. They are obligated to only give you a chance to reapply and not necessarily rehire you.

For the company

Off course you should rehire John, provided that he left you on a good note. Really. Employees abandon ship for various reasons only to realize that they left to go aboard the wrong ship! While the company might feel betrayed when employees quit, it pays off big time to rehire ex-employees because:

- They can hit the ground running.
- You help save a lot on training and recruiting costs.
- They know your work culture.
- Product/services familiarity gives them a great advantage.
- Their productive will be higher, since they feel grateful that you rehired them.
- Their search for ‘greener pastures’ wasn’t so good after all; that’s a story they’ll want to tell your current employees. It acts like a retention tool.

Things to watch-out for:
- Don’t rehire unless you have carefully thought out the reasons and done your checks. It needs the ex-employee’s buy-in too. Getting rehired shouldn’t be a stop-gap arrangement for them.
- It’s good to check on the ‘exit form’, if you have documented their previous exit. You want to ensure the employee wasn’t fired for incompetence, integrity issues, poor work ethic or bad performance.
- Existing employees might not take the rehire well. Especially if you end up giving raises or promotions to the rehired employee! That will backfire badly. Even prompting your existing employees to quit.
- You rehire an employee only ONCE. As funny as it sounds, I’ve known of incidents where companies have rehired multiple times!
- Consult an attorney if needed. To ensure you have the legalities covered.