HR 101

Back to the Future (at Work): Re-onboarding Employees

December 19, 2019

Employees come and go, but are you prepared for when they come back? In the movie Back to the Future, Marty McFly goes on an adventure through time, returning to a profoundly changed present. Employees who return from a prolonged leave of absence can feel like they, too, have travelled through time, uncertain of exactly where they are, what’s different, or what they should do next.

It’s easy to presume that when employees return to the workplace they will pick up right where they left off. But if an employee has been gone a long time, getting back into the daily flow of their job could be difficult. Your company might have grown, workspaces been rearranged, colleagues left and been replaced by new faces, and processes been altered. Even slow, small changes you don’t notice from day to day can be overwhelming for an employee who encounters them all at once after an absence.

A typical onboarding process includes informing a new employee about the company and their role within it; introducing them to their team and other departments; familiarizing them with company policies, events, surroundings, technology, and internal processes; explaining vacation entitlements, benefits, and other perks; and on and on. A lot goes into bringing a new employee aboard, because it is a critical window that determines whether that employee will stay with the company long term. These seem like obvious steps to take when you meet an employee for the first time, but a lot of these same steps work for current employees who have been away for a while. A rough transition back to work can make employees feel unappreciated and possibly send them out the door right when they’ve just returned.

A simple welcome back is not enough for these employees to return to the rhythm of things. Adapting the new-hire onboarding process for employees returning after a long absence ensures that employees get the right support. They need to be updated on what has changed, what hasn’t, and generally re-acquainted with their job and colleagues.

Making this the focus of their re-onboarding process will put everyone on the same page and guarantee a smooth transition. Download our Re-onboarding Guide, where we go over the often-forgotten groups of employees who should be included in the re-onboarding process, along with a few best practices for each circumstance.