5 things to consider before hiring a former employee

High turnover rate remains a significant challenge for Canadian employers, but there’s one source of well-qualified talent they may not yet be tapping; their former employees.

While it was once normal for an employee to work at the same company for 10, 20, or even 30 years, 51 per cent now remain in any one role for an average of under two years. In spite of the challenges that this poses to employers, however, research also suggests that they are boomeranging, or returning to their former employers, at increasing rates as well.

According to data compiled by Workopolis, the proportion of Canadians that have started a job at a company that they’ve previously worked for has more than doubled in the last 15 years. In 2015, 2.57% of Workopolis’ successful applicants, or more than one in 40 employees, boomeranged back to a former employer. By comparison, only 1% of those hired through the Workopolis platform were boomerang employees in the year 2000.

The data also found that the most common industry for boomerang employees is education, followed by healthcare, financial, retail, and government.

With boomeranging on the rise in Canada, here are five things to consider before hiring a former employee.

Determine why they left in the first place

The first step towards reconciliation is admitting that something went wrong in the relationship. Dig in and investigate what happened and why; did they leave on good terms? If you can’t determine why someone left, you can’t be confident they’ll stick around for much longer the second time around.

“Did they leave because they couldn’t get along with their manager? Is that manager still there? Will they still continue to report to them? Or has that manager left?” asks Cissy Pau, the principal consultant of Vancouver-based Clear HR Consulting. “Was there baggage? Did they leave because of other coworkers and colleagues, or was it the nature of the work that they didn’t enjoy? What’s changed now to make them want to come back?” Pau adds that these are all important questions to answer before hiring a boomerang employee.

Address any lingering issues head-on

After determining why the employee left, it’s important to resolve any lingering issues that may have caused them to leave, or that their departure may have inadvertently caused.

“If there’s specific issues, it’s important to address them, just as you would with anybody else, as if they were red flags on a resume,” said Pau, adding that employer can’t shy away from asking difficult questions, such as how the employee has developed in areas that may have been problematic during their initial employment.

Consider how their return will affect employee morale

While some former colleagues will be welcomed back to the office with open arms, others might return to find old baggage that has lingered since their departure. Before hiring a former employee its important to consider how their return will be received by their colleagues and the impact it will have on company morale, especially in smaller organizations or teams.

“You need to make sure that baggage won’t pose any problems in the future, because you can’t hide in a small business,” said Pau. “That’s where the cultural fit becomes really important. Any time you add a new person in a small business it changes the culture a little bit, so you need to ask ‘does this person enhance the culture, or does that person deflect from the culture?’”

Consider how they’ve changed

Whether the former employee has been gone a few months or a few years, it’s likely that they’ve changed since your last interaction. While many will have improved and diversified their skills during the interim, one can’t assume that all of those changes will be beneficial to the organization.

“They may get their foot in the door quicker than someone you don’t know, because you’re familiar — and if they were a superstar employee you might expedite the hiring process — but for the most part I would still recommend doing all the typical things you’d do in a hiring process,” said Pau. “You still have to have a robust hiring and evaluation process and criteria that you’re evaluating, not just a gut feel around whether you liked that former employee or not. “

Consider how you’ve changed

Just as the former employee has likely changed during the time apart, it’s quite likely that your organization has evolved as well.

“You can’t assume that the circumstances that the person was working under when they first worked there are going to be the same as now,” said Pao. “That’s a potentially dangerous trap that both employers and employees can get into; you think you’re going back to the same environment and culture, but neither party can assume that what was there is what will be.”

What’s the key takeaway? Before hiring a former employee, do your homework.

See also:
8 ways to spot a star performer
What to do when an ex-employee harasses your business


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