Under What Circumstances Would You Let Your LeBron Come Back?

“We could not be happier to welcome LeBron James home. Yesterday LeBron, though his essay, told us he wasn’t going anywhere except Cleveland and that ‘Cleveland is where he always believed he would finish his career.’ These words and commitment put all of us, including LeBron, in the best position to build our franchise the right way and achieve the kind of goals we all know are possible. Expectations will be at the highest levels but no one should expect immediate and automatic success.” – David Griffin, Cavaliers General Manager

LeBron James recently announced his return to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although the contract is only for 2 years rather than the usual 4, the King  made the decision to leave the Miami Heat, and go back. This star player’s choice to change teams shocked many and has definitely stirred the pot in basketball. But what do you do when your star player wants to “come home?” With 34% of people expecting (or wanting) to work until they are at least 80, it’s not improbable for past team members to return to your office. However, there are a lot of questions to ask your leadership before they return. So, it all boils down to: what will it take to bring them back?

Higher Tech Skills Expectations

LeBron James has the notoriety and the technical skills to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers to enhance the performance of the team. Your team as well is ever evolving and changing, so the employee who was once a key figure in decision-making, may no longer know what’s in the best interest of the organization. Millennials are beginning to enter the office at a surprising rate as more and more graduate. By 2020, Millennials are expected to comprise at least half of the workforce.

So can your (former) employees keep up with the changing tides and the new expectations for tech-savvy employees if they aren’t in the office? If their tech skills haven’t developed in the months or years they’ve been gone, would you want to take the time and energy to train them again when they left the first time? These are questions you need to ask yourself and their potential supervisors before making the hiring decision.

Changing Company Culture

As companies grow, their culture often changes with age. Stagnancy is rare among companies who have hit the growth stage when they have surpassed the start-up phase. In fact, many believe that a change in culture would not only be beneficial to employee growth, but 96% feel that a cultural shift in their organization is needed also. That’s a reason many employees leave and return in a “prodigal son” fashion. They leave in hopes of finding a company culture matching what they feel they need, and ultimately return because they can’t find the culture they want anywhere else.

A Change in Character

Lebron has not only developed as a player, he has grown as a person. His level of professionalism is something the Cavaliers should have left him with. However, such is not the case. With time spent away from a company, employees tend to gain a better perspective of the organization and their place while they were there. Don’t burn bridges with employees who have left.

Then you have the team players, the employees, who would never leave no matter how much the competitors paid them. Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks took a potential loss in professional growth to stay with the team he felt was his first love. He won’t be paid nearly as much and probably won’t see a winning championship game; but Anthony would rather play for the team he loves than get paid to play for any others. Your team, no matter which players you lose, will always have the employees who are completely dedicated to the company goals and their work. Don’t lose sight of them when you see another star performer take the opportunity to jump ship before they are ready to leave their home team.

What Can We Learn from LeBron’s Move?

Uphold a standard of professionalism and don’t publicly speak poorly of exiting talent.

Your current employees take notice, and may just follow suit. There is a possibility they will want to eventually return to your team; they are more apt to make a difference upon their return. It stands to reason, then since they already know the position, it won’t be too hard for them to adapt to the shifts in culture. However, a former employee returning for corporate benefits doesn’t care about the organization’s goals, they simply want to fill the seat during the interim. If they are ready, willing, and prepared to return, assess your organization needs before you rehire them. Everyone wants their star player, but when should they give up their title?

(About the Author: Sean Pomeroy, CEO of Visibility Software, has worked in the Human Resources industry since he graduated from Radford University with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After working in HR as a generalist for a government contracting company, he moved to the HR Technology arena and began assisting companies in the selection and implementation of HR software.)

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