Spotlight on going back to an old employer

For the Spice Girls, returning to their ‘old jobs’ as members of the world’s biggest girl group has more benefits than most of us get if we return to a previous employer.

Yet it seems some employees just can’t let go. Almost a quarter of Brits have returned to an old job and 34% of the workforce still keep in touch with their old boss, just in case. One of the UK’s most successful examples of ‘boomerang hiring’, as it is known, is car hire firm Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which conducted the research. At Enterprise, 68 employees have returned in the past five years.

Say you’ll be there

Networks are the key to drawing people back in, says Steve Huxham, chairman of the Recruitment Society. “For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers has had an alumni network for a long time as accountancy firms accept that they might lose a percentage of people from the day they walk in the door, but they also know that every accountant might be a client one day.”

However, you can’t just expect it all to happen naturally, says Huxham. “Generally, as soon as someone leaves a company, their personnel file starts to gather dust. You need to invest in tracking your leavers. However, this is almost a full-time job in itself.

“The best method is to think of a reason to keep in touch with your leavers. Create an alumni network, but don’t make it too formal. Find a wine bar close to work, stick a credit card behind the bar once every six months, and just have a relaxed evening catching up with everyone,” he says.

A perfect example of a successful return to work is Hayley Cook, account manager at multi-media marketing agency HPS Group.

“In 2000 I joined HPS on my university placement year, returned as a graduate in 2003, and then returned for my third time in 2007, which was a little nerve-wracking as the agency had moved and doubled in size, so there were lots of new faces – I could have been starting a job in a totally different agency,” she says.

Who do you think you are?

There are massive cost advantages to employers in boomerang hire, says Miller.

“You know who the candidates are, what they are good at, they are a proven talent, and it saves teaching the philosophy of the company.

“It’s also much cheaper to bring people back and as a lot of them will have gone to another company, that makes them more marketable as they have gained work and life experience.”

Employees benefit too, as Cook points out. “I already had a good working relationship with the senior management and understood the company’s culture.”

How to… make a triumphant return

  • If you left because you didn’t get on with a particular person, and that particular person is still with the company, then chances are the old problems will still be there, too.
  • Be sensitive. The junior account executive you left behind may now be in a senior position, and won’t appreciate being reminded how he/she used to make mistakes.
  • Don’t linger too long on the ‘good old days’. New people don’t want to hear how wonderful things used to be at the old office, or when John headed up the studio.
  • Treat returning to an old company the way you’d treat starting a new job.
  • Give people time to get to know you and give yourself time to get to know the new ethos of the company.

Source: Lorraine Forrest-Turner (triple returnee), senior PR account director at HPS Group

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