Most of us look at retention as a closed issue. People either choose to stay with our company or leave. As many of you know by now, I always take the longer-term view of a situation and I have learned that staying in touch with people after they leave your company can be your Midas touch. How? When someone decides to leave, make that parting a positive event. I suggest that no matter how difficult it is for you to see the person move on, it is more important that you immediately start recruiting them back. I don’t mean that you become a pest or that you force yourself on anyone. And, I don’t suggest you try to undermine or discredit their new employer. Rather, take a broad and positive approach and invite them to stay in email or telephone contact, invite them to any event that seems appropriate. For example, I once invited a former employee to a bachelor party for a person with whom the employee had worked. These simple acts can keep your database about the candidate up-to-date and improve or even repair any issues the employee may have had with your company. Remember, people usually choose leaders or bosses to work for, not companies. Many of us work in companies that are less than wonderful because we have a great boss! Make sure the former employee stays on relevant mailing lists such as that for the company newsletter. And perhaps once or twice a year make it clear to that former employee that you would consider hiring them back. I don’t know haw many times I have heard a candidate express the desire to return to a former employer but feels that because they resigned, they are not welcome back. If you are NOT making your former employees welcome, you are losing out on good people for pride and principal. Facing the fact that we all have to try new things and experiment makes it easier to accept these employees back. These former employees also have gained in skills and appeal, in my mind, because they have had a completely new experience in another company. They can bring in valuable information about how that company does business and about what its strengths and weaknesses are. The former employee also brings in new viewpoints and can challenge accepted ways of doing things. This is especially valuable because they probably understand why something is being done a certain way in your company and know what to challenge. They understand your internal politics and have a better sense of timing than a completely new employee would. There may be other ways you can increase the appeal of your company, especially if the person has left to start his or her own business or to become a consultant, by using their services on a contract basis. Why not use a known quantity? Sure beats experimenting with some new provider. Offer former employees small favors for referring candidates to you. Use them as part of your extended sourcing network. But, most of all, make them a key part of your overall sourcing and recruiting strategy and don’t just say goodbye when they leave. This can really be your Midas touch in finding great people quickly. Sure would like to hear from all of you about techniques you may have used to keep in touch and lure former employee’s back. Send them to kwheeler@ricochet.
Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.