Keeping an open mind and an open door to returning teammates
First and foremost: what is a boomerang employee? According to BambooHR, a boomerang employee is an employee who leaves the company they work for, but then later returns to work for that same company once again (BambooHR). Secondly: why should you care? To some, boomerang employees can arouse a certain level of distrust. If this individual chose to leave the company in the past, why are they looking to return? If they are rehired, what’s stopping them from leaving the company again? The issue of loyalty is heavily focused on, which can be a shortsighted view at a big picture opportunity. Keep reading below to learn more about why you should approach boomerang employees with an open mind, and fairly consider the value they can bring back to your organization.
In the past, boomerang employees have accounted for only a small number of total hires. That number has been increasing over the last few years, and in 2021, boomerang employees accounted for 4.5% of all new hires among companies…up from 3.9% over the same period in 2019. (The Wall Street Journal, The new job offer you want could come from your old boss). Companies are seeing the value that these return candidates can bring, and it’s showing in numbers across the board.
On the candidate side, more and more are staying open to the idea of returning to a previous company. “Employees often quit their job not because they hate it, but because they dislike one or two aspects of it,” shared Anthony Klotz, associate professor at University of College London’s School of Management. Many people who have moved on to new jobs still think highly of their old team and their old role, and are potentially open to returning if they know changes have been made and their concerns have been addressed. BambooHR shares that 40% of employees say they would consider boomeranging back to a company where they had previously worked. This isn’t limited to a specific generation of the workforce either: 46% of Millennials, 33% of Gen Xers, and even 29% of Baby Boomers felt the same (Bamboo HR).
Boomerang employees come with a virtual treasure trove of opportunity. For one, they are already familiar with the social structure and internal workings of the company they are returning to. This can help cut down on training and onboarding, and can enable them to start making an immediate impact in their new role. Companies can also lean on internal references and internal HR records to gain an idea of their previous work experience, which can speed up the vetting portion of the hiring process. Additionally, many employees who leave and return are doing so with increased experience; they may have gained more skills or certifications since leaving, and this means they are returning as a more valuable part of the team. They can share that increased knowledge and understanding with their teammates, which positively affects the organization as a whole.
Boomerang employees are often more appreciative once back at a company they left in the past. Leaving to see what else is out there, experiencing the culture and processes at other companies, can provide a crucial shift in perspective that was perhaps missing before. If changes have been made to address their past concerns, they are better able to focus on all of the benefits that the company provides and can actually become more loyal employees in the process.
Bringing on boomerang employees isn’t done entirely without risk. For one, as previously mentioned, companies need to be prepared to address why the employee left in the past and what has changed since then. Exit interviews are an important step that can be used to document and track employee complaints, and they can prove essential resources as a road map to change. If the boomerang employee’s previous reasons for leaving are still an issue when they return, it is foolish to think the long-term outcome will be any different.
Another thing to keep in mind is the dance around salary and internal equity. Boomerang employees are often brought back at a higher salary then they were at when they left—they have a greater idea of what the work entails and what they consider fair compensation for it, and they aren’t afraid to use salary as a bargaining chip for their return. It’s important to manage this increase fairly, especially if there are existing members of the team that have been there since the employee’s first engagement. You don’t want to project the idea that leaving and returning is the best way to get a pay bump approved (Boomerang Employees: Why Employees are Coming Back).
The Big Picture
Boomerang employees can become true assets to the organizations they are returning to, so long as their return is handled with intention, with a proven track record of change, and with trust. 76% of HR professionals say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past (BambooHR). This subset of the workforce can make up a healthy portion of the talent pool and shouldn’t be overlooked when hiring in 2023.
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