January 22, 2013
Companies today willingly re-hire old employees and enjoy the benefits of their immediate high productivity. Some of them (like McKinsey, Ernst & Young, HP and Deloitte, to name a few) have internal strategies and processes focused on attracting ex-employees back to the fold using alumni programs. Companies have found such efforts helpful in recruiting valued former employees, converting the alumni into loyal customers, establishing potential business partnerships (through the former employee’s current company), or gaining referrals to potential customers and new hires.
Planning the Alumni program:
In formulating a program to re-hire alumni, it is important to decide the criteria by which an alumnus would be considered as a worthwhile re-hire. In other words, it is important to note that everyone is not automatically eligible to be re-hired.
- Start with a broad definition of alumni. Do not limit the program to former staff employees. Consider former interns, contractors or consultants who were engaged for a particular assignment or period of time. All of these individuals bring prior knowledge of your products and services, cultures and work practices that would enable them to contribute from day one.
- Do not restrict your program to those who left voluntarily. Any previous worker who was terminated in good standing should be considered for future positions. Be sure your off-boarding procedures allow you to flag “do not re-hire” individuals and ensure that this list is automatically checked prior to making an offer to any prospective candidate. If, at the time of departure, severance was provided that was attached to tenure or tenure gap provisions, be sure to verify that those provisions have been met.
- Target specific skills, positions, experience and other attributes required by the company.
- It is also a good strategy to seek out retirees who wish to return.
- Don’t skip the typical candidate screening process. Verify that the employee retains the skills and culture required by the organization, and perform all needed background checks and substance abuse testing. Remember – times change, and so do people!.
- Some companies keep in touch with applicants who were top picks, but ended up taking a position with another company. Consider techniques for “following” these individuals. They may become great employees, partners or clients in the future.
Successful alumni programs require continuous interaction. The program must begin when the individual departs from your organization, and continues over the individual’s career. Key elements found in the top programs include:
- The employee off-boarding experience must be as positive as the onboarding experience. Employees should be treated respectfully. Exit interviews should be taken seriously, with candid discussions regarding the reason for departure.
- The employee should be informed of the alumni program and encouraged to join.
- To encourage active participation, the alumni program must be a “win-win” for all parties. The former employee may be seeking the ability to network with former colleagues, access to career-enhancing knowledge, and exposure to potential future employers. Your hiring managers want access to professionals who can immediately add value.
- Promote the alumni program. Be sure everyone is aware of the program and its benefits. Make it easy to participate. Promote its success stories.
- Passive job seekers are more likely to respond to a former colleague who encourages him/her to return than to an unknown corporate representative. Whenever possible, use existing employees to make contact and encourage participation in the alumni program.
Watch Out for these Challenges:
While re-employing former employees brings great benefits, there are risks that can result from an unstructured approach. The primary concerns cited by Human Resources personnel when re-engaging former workers are:
- Hiring managers may bring a worker back at a higher pay rate or job level. If not justified, it can result in dissatisfaction among other workers.
- Expectations regarding seniority and benefits must be clear. Your company must have a consistent policy regarding the effects of gaps in service.
- If the individual previously resigned due to dissatisfaction with the work environment, he/she may find that much has not changed and rapidly become disillusioned.
- If a former employee is brought on as an independent contractor and asked to perform the same role as when employed, there is a risk of employee misclassification that can have significant financial consequences.
Sound business practices can avoid legal and financial risks and remove obstacles to rehiring previous workers. Let us explore those practices in our next post.
The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.