How to go about rehiring an old employee

HR leaders share with HRKatha the protocols that must be followed while rehiring former employees

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Given the deluge of resignations that the HR is having to deal with these days, the likelihood of some of these resignees returning to the company sooner or later is quite high. This is especially true in cases where talent leaves for higher compensation. While the lure of a fatter pay package is somewhat hard to resist, not many who get carried away are able to feel at home in their new workplaces.

In the hope of getting back in their career fit, such employees may return to work for their previous employers. Such a phenomenon is not uncommon, and is definitely not a consequence of the Great Resignation. Rehiring employees who have parted ways with them has been a common practice for HR. However, evaluation of the intent behind someone’s desire to return is a process that the personnel department has managed to refine over the years.

“First question that must be assessed during the rehiring process is the track record of the employee with the company in the past”

Dwarakanath P, former chairman, GSK Consumer Healthcare

Dwarakanath P, former chairman, GSK Consumer Healthcare, tells HRKatha that there are several factors that go into a company’s decision to rehire a former employee. The veteran HR leader explains that GSK had a clear rehiring philosophy, which broadly categorises resignees into three types of exits: the good, the bad, and the neutral.

Employees who fall under the bad exit category, are the ones who leave the company on a bad note. Rehiring from this category is out of the question. Neutral exits comprise the employees who were average performers. Therefore, if they choose to return, they will be rehired subject to suitability and availability of roles.

The company’s interest in rehiring peaks when the talent is a decent performer who left the company under certain circumstances ranging from personal issues to pursuing a higher qualification or receipt of a more prestigious job or role.

“During the exit interviews, we try to figure out why somebody calls it quits. Sometimes, there may be good reasons and we are considerate towards them. When rehiring a person with good exit record, we are more liberal with the terms and benefits that we offer while onboarding. Long-term benefits, accelerated bonus, and so on may be put on the table,” says Dwarakanath

“I have followed the principle of rehiring an employee only after one year of leaving the organisation”

Sriharsha Achar, CHRO, Star Health Insurance

He goes on to assert that the first question that must be assessed during the rehiring process is the track record of the employee with the company in the past. He correctly points out that hiring teams keep changing. Therefore, the current hiring team needs to examine and assess the performance of boomerang employees in their previous engagement with the company. Based on that, inferences need to be drawn and their suitability within the organisation evaluated.

Dwarakanath also reveals that it is not uncommon for HR to keep track of good or clean exits at the senior management level for at least twelve to eighteen months. He says that this time frame allows the company to assess the possibility of them boomeranging.

The same sentiment about rehiring people with clean exits is shared by Sriharsha Achar, CHRO, Star Health Insurance. However, he has a different approach to the time frame within which a boomerang employee must be allowed to return to the company.

“I have followed the principle of rehiring an employee only after one year of leaving the organisation,” reveals Achar.

He says that this policy is a conscious effort to maintain the internal equity of the organisation.

Many a time, people only leave to secure higher packages elsewhere. Once they secure the desired package and move to the new organisation, they may find themselves to be inadequate cultural fits there. This may push them to return to their previous company and seek a better package.

“There is no harm in betting on former employees. However, their intent to rejoin must be carefully evaluated”

Mahipal Nair, CHRO, NielsenIQ

Even after a year, Achar believes that the fitment that the boomerang employees can secure at the time of rehiring should be in accordance with what they would have received if they had decided to stay on in the organisation.

“One needs to be conscious of how the decision of rehiring someone is going to impact the rest of the organisation, especially when a person is re-engaged at the mid and senior levels,” cautions Achar.

According to him, “People mostly leave a company to secure a better compensation or a higher position. However, when they are rehired they must be offered a fitment that corresponds to their level of competency”.

He rightly points out, “Bad peer group comparisons may emerge if someone is elevated without just cause and that may disturb the internal equity of the organisation”.

Achar elaborates that the hiring process may be the same for such candidates. However, the interviews need not be as indepth as in the case of a new candidate. The recruiter must assess what new things have turned up during their stint outside of the organisation and why they want to come back. “The same recruitment process may be applied, albeit with a vigilance check above a particular level. This is nothing but a background verification done by the vigilance team of the company. He also shares that the number of levels that boomerang candidates need to clear for rehiring should also be less. There is no need for panel discussions. One-on-one interviews should suffice for them.

Mahipal Nair, CHRO, NielsenIQ, cautions that one needs to be mindful of whether the trigger for the person to rejoin is not just an increase in the compensation, something that he himself witnesses quite often. He also believes that a minimum time for a person to rejoin should be at least 18 months. If they are rejoining after two years, they must be subjected to a complete evaluation process, as there is no guarantee of whether they’d be the same fit for the company’s culture as they were earlier.

“There is no harm in betting on former employees. However, their intent to rejoin must be carefully evaluated,” he suggests.

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