Rehiring former employee is new trend

As employers cautiously resume hiring, many are considering familiar faces: employees they let go during the recession.

Forty percent of employers plan to rehire these so-called "boomerang" employees, according to a recent survey conducted by Atlanta-based OI Partners-Career Management Resources, a global career transition and coaching firm.

“This attitude represents a major shift in employers’ rehiring philosophy,” says Whit Blakeley, OI managing partner. “In the past, companies would not rehire laid-off employees, but now they are more willing and more employees may consider returning.”

Rehiring laid-off employees keeps hiring costs down and employers already know the workers’ talents and skills.

“Employees can get back to performing their old jobs quickly and they’ve already demonstrated they fit well into the organization,” Blakeley said.

Nick Seidell, CEO for Integral Choice, an Atlanta telecommunications consulting and sales agency, said his firm laid off a few employees at the first sign of the economic downturn in 2008, but was able to reverse itself and reclaim one worker.

“One of them contacted us after a few months about returning and we were able to bring him back on board at a lower pay scale," Seidell said. "He hit the ground running and provided an immediate impact. He has since moved into a role that’s very valuable to us today.”

That rehired employee, Blake Harrison, has been promoted to assistant channel manager for Integral Choice.

“I knew there would be a lot of possibilities if I came back to the company,” Harrison said. “I’ve grown a small position into a management position. Coming back into a company can be a little awkward at first, but overall it’s been a really good experience.”

Robin Schlinger, owner of Robin’s Resumes in Atlanta, has produced hundreds of resumes for boomerang employees and spotted a positive trend: “I have found that many employees who were let go from companies, or who left to gain more experience, return with a more grateful attitude and an understanding that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side."

Monique Honaman, president and CEO of ISHR Group, an Atlanta human resources consulting firm, pointed to another potential benefit. “These boomerangs usually have a network that extends well outside of your company and it has probably expanded since they left," she said. "This can help deliver new customers, clients and capabilities to your firm."

While the strategy can pay off for both employer and employee, it’s not always the right move. “Rehiring a former employee may be the easiest thing to do, but it’s not necessarily the best thing to do if he or she isn’t the best person for the job,” said Tim Newton, a partner with Atlanta-based Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, a national labor and employment firm.

“Hiring boomerangs is often cheaper and faster than going out and finding new talent and bringing them up to speed,” Honaman added. “Rather than taking the easy road, hiring managers need to make sure they’re exhausting all their resources to find the best talent.”

The biggest drawback in rehiring former employees is the residue from being laid off.

“There may still be feelings of resentment or anger toward your company, which could result in the employee not being as fully engaged as you’d like," said Chris Beck, managing director with First Transitions, an Atlanta outplacement services and human resources consulting firm..

“They can bring negativity with them that drags other employees down and they may also be wary of the company’s stability and not put their all into the job,” said Dr. Jane Goldner, hiring expert, founder and CEO of Atlanta's Goldner Group.

Seidell has had both positive and negative experiences when rehiring employees. “One person we rehired had some gripes about his former tenure and just couldn’t let them go, and he eventually became a cavity that affected the whole team’s morale,” he said.

To guard against a disgruntled employee, Seidell recommended readdressing what led to letting go of the employeein the first place. Make sure there's a clean slate.