These days, it’s not unusual to see “boomerang” employees, those who leave for positions or opportunities elsewhere, only to return later on. Sometimes this is just a matter of practical circumstances; people leave to pursue school or full-time caregiving, as a result of a layoff, or because there are no current opportunities for advancement at your organization. Other times, they leave for greener pastures (whether that means more money or a different sort of work environment) only to discover they actually prefer to work for you.
Re-hires are a sign of a healthy workplace; nobody goes back to a toxic employer unless they have no other options. But it does raise the question: what happens when you hire someone back a second time? How does it differ from the process of onboarding an employee who is brand new to you?
Most mandatory forms need to be filled out the same way for all hires, whether or not they’ve worked for you before. There are, however, some exceptions.
Verifying authorization to work with the I-9 form.
With new hires and most re-hires, you’ll need to ensure your employee fills out Section 1 and complete Section 2 yourself on verifying their documentation. If you’re rehiring an employee less than three years since the last time they completed an I-9 with you, however, you can complete Section 3 instead. The exception to this is if the employee’s work authorization expired in the interim. In this case, you’ll need to start again from the beginning.
Withholding taxes with the W-4 form
A new job is a new circumstance, regardless of whether or not the employee in question has worked for you before. As a result, it’s a good idea to have them fill out a new W-4 form, especially if they’ve been through other changes recently, such as a marriage, divorce, or the birth or adoption of a child.
Is there a law that requires this? No. So if you still have the employee’s old W-4 on hand (and you’re required to keep them for at least four years), you can ask the employee if it still looks good.
Introductions and expectations
If literally nothing about your business has changed since the employee left, this part of onboarding might be a breeze. But most of the time, this isn’t the case.
Introducing your returning employee
- Are there new people on your staff? Make a special point of introducing your re-hire to these people so nobody ends up feeling out of the loop.
- Are there familiar faces in new roles or with new responsibilities? Don’t let your re-hired employee embarrass themselves when it turns out that they thought Juana the project manager was still an admin assistant.
- Have there been changes to how business gets done? Even if everyone is still in the same positions, make sure that you clarify new channels of communication for your re-hired employee when reintroducing people people in the workplace.
- Let your re-hired employee make as much of a fresh start as they would like. We all grow as people. If they used to be the office clown and want to be more serious now, don’t insist on telling stories about all their pranks.
- Make no assumptions that they remember policies and procedures. You can introduce things with “I know you might already know this, but …” but you don’t want to inadvertently set your employee up for failure by leaving knowledge gaps.
- Don’t measure them by past successes or failures. Focus on their current accomplishments instead.
- Be clear about how things like seniority play out. If they lost their former standing when it comes to things like vacation time, don’t leave this unspoken. That being said, if the employee was laid off or if they resigned due to a medical or family emergency, it is worth considering restoring their seniority to its former level.
- Address potential awkwardness head-on. If the employee is managing or being managed by former peers, there will be some feelings of awkwardness. Let them know it’s normal and give them examples of how you’d like them to deal with it.
Re-hires can be a boon to your business.
They’ve seen the working world elsewhere and they’ve chosen to come back with their eyes wide open. This can boost morale as well as providing new insights as to which practices of yours are excellent, and which you might want to change. Ready to get on with your onboarding? Download our NYS Employee Onboarding Kit and you’ll be well on your way.
If you're hiring an employee, or think you might be soon, check out our comprehensive resource page, Employee Onboarding - A Complete Guide. This is a handy, tightly-packaged outline that presents all the critical hiring and onboarding elements in simple, chronological order.