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Boomerang Employees: How to Rehire Your Former Staff

As more businesses plan to reopen in the coming weeks and months, boomerang employees are on the minds of many business owners and hiring managers. A boomerang employee is a former employee who has left the company and is later rehired. 

Boomerang hiring has been an important recruiting strategy for many companies well before COVID-19. People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons — for example, a lack of growth opportunities — and it can be to your advantage to welcome them back to the team with open arms. 

Why you should rehire former employees 

So what exactly are the benefits of incorporating boomerang employees into your recruiting strategy? To name just a few:

  • Fewer surprises. You’ve worked with this person before and know who they are. Having such detailed knowledge of their strengths, shortcomings, and character is more significant than any references a new candidate could provide.
  • Faster ramp time. Depending on the amount of time that has passed, they may still be familiar with your operations and require less training, so they can begin making an impact sooner. 
  • Retention. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Before COVID-19, oftentimes employees who left to work somewhere else and came back ended up with renewed and lasting loyalty if they were unsatisfied with their other job experiences. Rehiring your staff after a pandemic is a different circumstance, but you can expect to still build loyalty by rehiring your team during this tough time. 
  • Reduced time to hire. Returning employees can go through a modified or shortened hiring process so you can make faster — but still reliable — hiring decisions. 
  • New value. Rehires who’ve been gone for longer and held other jobs since working for you will return with new experiences and skill sets that may benefit your business. 

How to rehire 

Now that you’re familiar with why you should rehire, let’s take a look at how to rehire.

1. Stay connected.

If you haven’t already, reach out to your former team and let them know what you know, including your timeline and intent to rehire team members when you’re able. Let them know what this process will look like and if you expect any changes in your business operations as you open back up. 

Try to anticipate and address logistical concerns they may have:

  • Will schedules change?
  • Will job duties or responsibilities shift?
  • What will health and safety protocols look like when you reopen?

2. Create a hiring process for rehires.

Following a standard hiring process is key to consistently making the right hires for your team. But what do you do with past employees who’ve already gone through the hiring process? 

There isn’t a hard and fast rule on this, but it may help to put it in the context of how long ago they were an employee and what experiences they’ve had since working for you. 

Has it been six months? A year? More? Your hiring process will help you learn more about their time away from your business, if they’ve gained new skills, and the lessons they’ve learned. 

If you had to lay off employees due to the pandemic and are looking to return them to an identical position, you can approach this process differently. Use an abbreviated process to have a short meeting (or phone/video call) with the employee gauging their interest in coming back. Ask them how they’ve been doing, share your thoughts about opening up the business, and offer them their job. 

If they’re applying for a different job than they held during the last employment with you, use your standard hiring process. You may know them in the context of their last position, but a hiring process will help fit them into the context of this new role and verify whether or not you’re making the right decision. 

3. Send rehire offer letters. 

Give rehired employees new offer letters as if they are beginning employment with you — because they are. Include all the standard information you would include on any offer letter, including:

  • Terms of employment
  • Position title
  • Compensation
  • Hours 
  • FLSA status
  • Start date 

4. Have them complete new hire paperwork.

Just like new hires, boomerang employees should complete the same new hire paperwork. You may think this is an unnecessary formality, but it’s in your best interest to have rehired employees review and re-sign any paperwork. An employee agreement, for example, may have language that was only binding until termination.

For the Form I-9 — the document that verifies identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. — you may utilize Section 3 on their previous form if you rehire the employee within three years of their original start date. You can also choose to complete a new form, but remember to maintain the original Form I-9 for the full retention period: three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later. 

Other paperwork may include emergency contact information, direct deposit authorizations, or employee handbook acknowledgments. If the information has not changed, you should still have the employee review and verify everything is up to date. 

5. Conduct an onboarding and training refresher.

Modify your onboarding processes to refresh rehired employees on training and company policies. If it’s only been a couple of months since your business has closed or reduced staff, this may not need to be as extensive as initial training, but it has still been a few months not working for you and naturally reinforcing on-the-job behaviors. 

Spend time refreshing the team, updating them on new processes (especially any safety protocols), and aligning on the expectations for performance. 

This is especially if you’re going to ask returning employees to help with any training of brand new employees — this is a good time to reset any bad habits that were seeping into the workplace operations. Think of it as a fresh start. 

What about furloughed employees?

If you’ve furloughed employees, you won’t need to think about a hiring process — a furlough works like an unpaid leave of absence. 

However, you will need to extend them an official recall letter, which works like an offer letter by including an offer of employment (furloughed employees still need to accept or reject the return-to-work offer), a return-to-work date, and other terms of employment including benefits status. 

An onboarding and training refresher should also be conducted with furloughed employees.

TLDR

  • Boomerang hiring is an effective addition to any recruiting strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Create a hiring process for rehired employees that verifies they are still the right hires.
  • Refresh rehired employees on training and company policies.

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