Receiving an unexpected call from the company that previously laid you off can be a surprising situation. The question is: would you return to work for them? It’s a decision that may seem straightforward, but for some, the factors to consider are more intricate. Companies like Meta, the parent company of Facebook, and Salesforce are rehiring some of the employees they had let go. Big Tech is on the lookout for individuals skilled in areas such as artificial intelligence. However, similar to reconciling with an ex, the decision for former employees to give it another try often depends on how things ended previously.
Companies that mishandled layoffs will likely face challenges persuading former employees to return, according to Sandra Sucher, a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School who has extensively studied layoffs.
On the other hand, if the layoffs were handled reasonably well, some former employees might consider returning, as it signifies that the company values them. “If you want me back, you value me,” Sucher told Insider. Nevertheless, ex-employees will seek to understand how they can rebuild their careers within the organization. “What is my path going forward? Not just for right now,” she emphasized.
The situation has seen a significant shift since the beginning of this year. Initially, many Silicon Valley giants had been reducing their workforce, admitting to overhiring during the pandemic. Tech companies have let go of around 350,000 employees so far this year, with the highest number of cuts occurring in January.
Employee Sentiments and Considerations for Rejoining Salesforce
Former employees of Salesforce may now be contemplating whether to return, as the company plans to hire approximately 3,000 employees after a 10% reduction in workforce at the start of the year. Salesforce aims to expand its AI business and attract further investments through hiring in departments such as sales, engineering, and data cloud product teams.
CEO Marc Benioff is reaching out to past employees, not only those who may have been laid off, urging them to consider rejoining. Recently, Salesforce organized an event to reconnect with former staff, gifting them symbolic “boomerang” shirts and stuffed toys.
However, for those who were laid off and did not find alternative employment, there might still be lingering resentment regarding how Salesforce handled the layoffs. Some employees criticized the company’s communication during the process. The layoffs also seemed contradictory to the familial culture that Salesforce had nurtured, as the company and Benioff had long encouraged employees to perceive their colleagues and the company as “Ohana,” a Hawaiian term signifying family.
Earlier this year, under pressure from activist investors to enhance growth and margins, the company announced a heightened focus on profitability and efficiency. This move implied that the focus on profitability would take precedence over the company’s “Ohana” philosophy.
Sucher emphasized that for some employees, the knowledge that both they and the company are familiar with each other could influence their decision to go back.
She suggested that individuals contemplating a return to a previous employer should reflect on questions like: Why was I let go? What has changed that makes my reemployment necessary now? How can I regain trust in this situation?
Layoff Strategy of Meta and Employee Reengagement in the Tech Industry
In a Reddit post from late July, a user sought advice on whether to rejoin a former employer who had laid them off, only to offer a managerial role in a different department shortly after.
The individual, having already taken up an alternate, less financially rewarding job, found themselves at a crossroads: “Given my recent layoff from the company, I naturally have concerns,” the person expressed. The advice varied between returning but continuing to job hunt, not returning at all, or negotiating for a higher salary upon return.
In a surprising turn of events, a department head—someone who had previously hired and later laid off this individual—reached out to inquire about their interest in returning. “Honestly, I didn’t anticipate this,” the person remarked.
Navigating Employee Reengagement in a Shifting Job Landscape
This fluctuating approach to employees is nothing new, especially in sectors like hospitality. During the initial phases of the pandemic, many restaurant employees were laid off. As restrictions eased, employers struggled to fill vacancies due to workers seeking improved working conditions.
Now, the tech industry is experiencing a similar trend. Some may demand better compensation to return, while others might have grown accustomed to the uncertainty surrounding substantial job cuts. However, job security remains a prominent factor. Platforms like Trueup.io display the number of days since the last layoffs for companies like Amazon and Meta alongside job listings.
There is a possibility that high demand will entice some workers to return, particularly given the significant interest in individuals with AI skills. According to a LinkedIn spokesperson, global English-language job postings mentioning artificial intelligence technologies have increased 21 times since November 2022, when ChatGPT was introduced.
According to Sucher, those who opt to return to a former employer after a layoff will likely seek transparency regarding the company’s strategy to prevent future staff reductions. She emphasized that returning employees will view the organization differently, and the experience will have a lasting impact on their perception of job security. “This has lasting effects on how people feel about security,” Sucher noted. “It shakes their belief that doing good work guarantees job retention.”