Are boomerang employees the answer to your hiring conundrums?

Rachel Hill
Rachel Hill

Struggling to find a hire with suitable skills? Worried about your yearly turnover rate? Reflecting on whether new employees will fit into the company culture?

The possible solution to all these conundrums and more can be found in boomerang employees. As the name suggests, boomerang employees are former employees who left your organisation voluntarily, but come back to work for you again. While there was previously a stigma surrounding rehiring former employees, it is definitely becoming popular with the increasingly competitive candidate market:

According to a survey by Workplace Trends:

Nearly half of HR pros said their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees — even if the employee left in good standing — but 76% said that they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees than in the past.

As we have discussed previously, businesses are looking for more innovative ways to recruit – perhaps more than ever. Referral programs, recruitment events, Snapchat .. are all part of the modern efforts taken by recruiters to find the best talent. And while you may be hesitant to bring back a former employee, if this former employee was successful, there are number of benefits to rehiring them over another applicant.

boomerang employees

Advantages of hiring a boomerang employee

Firstly, they know your company culture, missions and values already. With an established employee-employer relationship already in place, you can skip the awkward mingling stage. This former employee may have kept up strong relations with current employees, meaning that they integrate into the office culture much faster than new hires.

Boomerang employees are also familiar with the various company processes. If they are undertaking the same role again, the training process will be significantly shorter, saving you time. Simultaneously, their onboarding process will also be shorter as boomerangs tend to get straight to work and pick up where they left off.

If a former employee left you to pursue travel desires, experience startup/multinational life – their return could bring fresh perspectives and ideas to your organisation. Their time away may have also allowed them to develop new and valuable skills. If you’re really lucky, this boomerang may have created connections that your company can now profit from.

Employee turnover and retention costs are increasing areas of concern for businesses everywhere, but areas where boomerang employees can assist. Overall, there is less cost and effort associated with recruiting boomerangs; the estimated save is up to $20,000 per hire. If this boomerang was previously successful, you also have less concerns regarding their company fit and future performance in the company.

boomerang employees

The dreaded disadvantages

It is only fair to present both sides of the coin and boomerang employees do carry a considerable flight risk. While some boomerangs may return brimming with excitement and innovative ideas, some may still cling to old ideas, now irrelevant to the company. This disadvantage can send your company backwards, as opposed to forwards.

Although boomerangs may have gained valuable experience during their time away, this experience may come at a considerable price. To return to your company, some employees may expect increased perks or compensation. Depending on the value and skills of this particular person, your company will need to evaluate whether this extra dosh is worth it.

Before welcoming back an ex employee, ensure a return won’t invigorate any past friction with current employees. It may be good to have chats with other managers who remember the past employee and any disputes that arose. If you decide to bring back a former employee, make sure you address any sensitive issues.

Of course, the biggest disadvantage of boomerang employees is the chance they may leave again. They already left once, so who is to say they won’t leave in another 3 months? If you decide like many that the pros outweigh the cons, it is essential to have a fully developed strategy in place.

boomerang employees

Putting a strategy in place for promising boomerangs

When a good employee leaves, you are tempted to cut all ties – you’re annoyed, you’re stressed and maybe hurt – but try not to. Just because an employee leaves, does not mean their loyalty disappears too. Companies have evolved and realised that loyalty can remain and flourish. So first things first, support your employee’s decision and let them know they have somewhere to return.

Before an employee leaves, ensure you gather their feedback in an exit interview. This feedback can serve as useful advice for improvements to make in your organisation. Keep up communications by offering a reference, connecting with them on social media and adding them to your alumni network. Alumni – management software like KonnectAgain can help you maintain relationships with employees.

When your former employee has started their new role, ensure to ask occasionally how they are getting on. If you are actively seeking candidates, why not reach out and ask them if they want to be part of a referrals program? Who knows, they might know a great person. In addition, keep note if these former employees are job hunting again and actively reach out to them. They may be glad to know you implemented their feedback. 

While boomerang candidates are different from standard candidates, you should still treat them fairly throughout the recruitment process. This means adding them to your ATS and keeping up regular communications. If you decide to rehire the employee, ensure they are aware of any new training, policies or procedures that are currently in place. This strategy shows you have prepared for their return and the company has evolved since they last left.

boomerang employees

So to sum things up

Are boomerang employees the answer to your hiring conundrums? Based on the research above, boomerang employees are a great solution if your company is willing to evolve and strategically build your alumni network. Losing employees is part of a life, but it doesn’t always have to end negatively – employees may simply want to broaden their experience of the world and there’s nothing you can say. What you can do is maintain and build on these working relationships in a way that benefits both parties. So, challenge accepted?

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