Coverage in The Hindu Business Line on the Boomerang Effect

Shailja Dutt, the founder and chairperson of executive search firm Stellar Search is a staunch proponent of rehiring. But not before she asked a head honcho of a top-notch global company why he took old employees back. His perspective had a radical effect on her opinion. “They want to come back home with greater experience, more varied and diverse learning and a greater appreciation for what is available back home, so why not?” he’d said. Rehiring is very necessary in this day and age where there’s a war for talent, she says. In India, though, companies have a more negative bias towards rehiring than positive, says Dutt. To find out their views on boomerang employees as returning staff are known in HR jargon, we reached out to a few companies that have welcomed old employees back. While rehiring at present seems to work mostly through personal connections, some companies have more formal efforts to channel it.

Keeping the doors open

Infosys rehires employees on a need basis, a win-win as both firm and individual are usually assured of a match in work culture and values. Richard Lobo, EVP & Head – HR, Infosys, says Green Channel Hiring, their earlier initiative for rehiring, yielded positive results and encouraged them to maintain an open channel. A regular source of people to tap is the Infosys Global Alumni Network. “We recently launched a campaign featuring re-hires, to showcase the reasons why they chose to return to Infosys,” says Lobo.

Mutual benefit

Rehiring has emotional and financial benefits. Old employees usually acclimatise faster, and the firm won’t have to spend much money training them. Sofia Joseph, General Manager – HR, Cloudnine group of hospitals, says her firm aggressively looks at rehiring. “This makes the organisation look more open, warm and futuristic,” she says.

Some employers recognise employees may not get all the experience they desire to accumulate from a single firm. Says MK Padmakumar, COO of global development consultancy IPE Global, “On many occasions, they depart on a positive note. Probably there are no career prospects in their department, so they go out, work 2-3 years and return. It’s also not good to stay in one organisation for very long. Productivity goes up when they are exposed to a different work culture.” A word of caution: Be mindful you are not incentivising such departures too much.

Pay matters

Then, of course, there’s the big issue of pay, which can lead to much heartburn if the rehired person is paid more compared to his peers who have not switched jobs. Pallavi Das, a Principal Consultant with communications and business advisory agency Integral has been hired and rehired thrice by the firm over a period of ten years. Elevation and higher pay don’t seem to have caused any resentment. “My colleagues know I took a course to enhance my skills when I lived abroad. I also worked on a couple of projects.” It helped that in her later stints, she got designations similar to her colleagues’. Her pay was on the higher side of the same pay bracket.

Gopinath Govindan, Director, HR, of CLP India, a foreign firm that invests in India’s power sector, says firms have to be fair to the stayers and the rehires. “We have to recognise the extra value the rehires bring in. The employees are taking a risk when they go to the market and come back,” he says, adding that “these decisions have to be balanced with internal equity”. Invariably, the people who come back have added value unless they come into a role similar to their previous one, he observes.

Das kept going back to Integral as they were used to each other. “I liked the work culture, it was friendly and there was no politics. Productivity is hampered if you have to deal with such issues,” she notes. At Integral, Das now handles several affairs independently and has been charged with business development. The HR managers say they take an employee back only after a cooling-off period. They are open to paying more if the role is considerably different. Further, one needs to be mindful about putting the rehires back in the same team; it’s easier to put them in a different one. All of them believe extreme caution is necessary – the employees should not see it as a way to extract unfair advantage.

IPE Global’s Padmakumar says salaries across firms would have grown in 2-3 years, so the stayers won’t have that big a gap to compare.

The rehired employee values the company more in his second stint and his contribution is enhanced, says Tata Capital’s Bhattacharya. It’s a feel-good thought when employees call us back, says Cloudnine’s Joseph. Her firm has a “robust” rehiring policy on the drawing board.

What will returning employees have to be aware of when they’re going back to their old firm? Stellar Search’s Dutt says they need to ensure they are re-joining for the right reasons. Think of why you left in the first place – bad boss, company culture, peers? Sometimes, one could also be in the wrong job at the right place, so don’t come back to the same thing, is her other suggestion. Ultimately, it’s not all about skills and roles, it’s also about returning as a more mature person, for mutual benefit.


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