Laying off employees is never an easy decision to make, but sometimes it’s your only course of action. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses laid off employees. Sales teams, in particular, took a big hit as many businesses saw their markets shrink overnight. But now, over a year later, many businesses are ramping back up as the uncertainty of the pandemic begins to wane.
If your business is picking up steam, you may be thinking about staffing up again. You may even have a few questions like, “Should I bring my sales team back or rebuild it?”.
We realize that this can be a difficult decision for employers, so in this post, we’ll answer some of your most pressing questions around hiring new or bringing back sales staff after COVID-19 layoffs and help point you in the right direction.
First, can I bring back a laid-off employee?
Short answer: yes. There are no laws that state that you can’t rehire a laid-off employee, but there are some factors you should consider. You should consult HR to be sure.
There could also be some lingering feelings of anger or betrayal on either side, making it tough to start fresh. Or maybe your company culture has changed since they left, and your former employee no longer fits in.
Is it better to hire a new employee or bring back my old ones?
If you’re looking to rebuild your team, your previous employees should be your first choice, and here’s why:
- It can save you time and money. These employees are already familiar with your product and business practices, so you won’t need to spend much time training them.
- They may be grateful to get a second chance. Not every employer is willing to take a laid-off employee back, so returning workers tend to be more loyal and productive.
- It’s tough to find good talent. It’s more challenging than ever to find quality candidates. If you had to lay off some of your top performers, take the opportunity to bring them back (and potentially keep them from moving to one of your competitors).
- Your sales force is a revenue generator. Laying off salespeople may help you save money in the short term, but it can cost you in the long run in terms of customer loyalty and a reduced bottom line. Bringing back your sales team can directly aid in business recovery by generating revenue.
What if my old employees weren’t up to par? Shouldn’t I try to start fresh?
Don’t fall for that old ‘grass is greener’ trap. We get it – now that you’ve had some time apart, you might be thinking that you can do better or that your old sales team wasn’t good enough, right?
But ask yourself: How do you know you can do better? What does ‘better’ even mean to you? While new candidates might look good on paper, you won’t know what they’re like or understand their strengths and weaknesses until they settle into the role.
In comparison, you know a lot more about what your previous staff brings to the table. They know your business, they’ve built relationships with your customers, and you already know their flaws, so you can start thinking about how to support them better.
Also, keep in mind that your previous employees already went through your existing hiring process, so if they’re not ‘good enough,’ then it could mean that there are some issues with your hiring approach that you should address first (and by the way, we can help with that).
Instead of starting over, think about how you can leverage what you’ve already got and how you can get more out of those people going forward.
- How can you invest in making them more successful?
- Are they in the right job?
- Is there another role that would be a better fit?
- Do they have the right managers?
- Is their manager doing enough?
Starting fresh and hiring a new team is intellectually easy. It’s much harder to reflect on your actions and process and ask yourself if you set your employees up to succeed or made a bad hire.
Okay, I want to bring my old team back. What should I do? What are the best practices?
- Consider their rights. Former employees may be entitled to certain enhanced benefits related to their seniority, or they may have some statutory benefit rights that they accrued from their previous employment period.
- Communicate any changes. Have you implemented new safety protocols, team structures, or changes to their specific employment terms (i.e., new wages, different work hours, new sales strategy)? You need to let your laid-off employees know before they return. This will ensure that you’re on the same page and give them the chance to consider whether the company and position are still a good fit.
- Get them to resign all employment documents. You will need to do this even if they only recently left the company.
- Expect some initial awkwardness. It can take some time for your employees to get back into the swing of things, especially if there have been many changes. The best way to start things off on a good note is to treat them like a new hire. Introduce them to new team members, brief them on current and upcoming projects, and provide them with learning materials to catch up on any new tools you’ve implemented to help get them up to speed.
- Be extra compassionate. If your returning employees have been unemployed for several months, they’ve likely been dealing with a lot of stress and financial uncertainty and may be worried about being downsized again. Try to be as supportive and transparent as possible. If you know there’s a strong possibility that there could be another wave of shutdowns and subsequent layoffs, be upfront about this, but also let them know you’ll do everything you can to avoid this.
Rehiring sales staff you’ve previously laid off can be an exciting sign that your business is recovering and moving forward. However, bringing back these workers is no simple feat – it’s a process that you need to approach with a lot of thought and care.
There’s a lot to consider when rehiring staff, especially during these uncertain times, but by keeping the above tips in mind, you can make sure that both your business (and your returning employees) have the right tools and supports in place to thrive.