- Previously, leaving an organization was considered disloyal, and rehiring former employees was not widely considered acceptable.
- In 2021, boomerang workers accounted for 4.5% of all new hires, up from 3.9% in 2019.
- Risk tolerance, initial turnover reasons, and need for stability are all important for organizations to consider when evaluating whether to rehire a past employee or look elsewhere.
In the midst of the chaos the past few years have brought us, some great employees have jumped ship looking for new opportunities. But what many found was that the grass wasn’t any greener at their new job.
Previously, leaving an organization was considered disloyal, and rehiring former employees was not widely considered acceptable.
However, in an age when the average employee will work for more than 12 different employers during their career, and when companies are grappling with a tight labor market and skill shortages, many organizations are giving consideration to these ‘boomerang’ employees.
A boomerang employee is one who leaves a job and then asks to be rehired.
The reasons these employees leave their company can vary: from accepting a new job that seems like a good opportunity, to needing to relax after experiencing burnout.
In 2021, boomerang workers accounted for 4.5% of all new hires, up from 3.9% in 2019. Some of these workers are people who quit during the pandemic and are looking to return to their old jobs.
If predictions are correct, bringing back boomerang staff may become part of the next trend in hiring. Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, told Wired that he believes this wave of boomerang employees will last for the next five years.
Should employers hire boomerang employees?
Some leaders may be hesitant to onboard an employee who once abandoned ship, but there are reasons to consider them.
Boomerang employees are more predictable than external hires and they also have better immediate job performance. These workers have lower training costs and they get onboarded quicker, which can make them more attractive to businesses that are looking to quickly meet staffing needs.
According to Kathleen Quinn Votaw, CEO of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm, there are many pros to accepting boomerang employees with open arms, but the question remains as to how you hold on to them.
“Boomerang employees can be the best hires provided they left on good terms. Most employees are looking for a great community to join that honors them as a whole person, not the most money,” Quinn Votaw told Allwork.Space.
Because these employees know what they’re getting into when they get rehired, they may be more committed this time and less likely to leave again. They also might have improved gratitude to the experiences they gained during their time away, and can bring back fresh knowledge, skills, and maturity.
“Boomerang hires also significantly impact your positive employer brand and experience because by coming back, they are choosing your community again,” Quinn Votaw said.
The pandemic has shown that some job departures are done out of necessity. Employees now tend to leave on good terms, and provide their employers with their contact information as well as stay in touch on professional networking platforms.
Boomerang employment is a growing trend thanks to technology that helps people stay in contact over time, according to Brian Swider, a management professor at the University of Florida and an expert on boomerang employees.
If an outstanding team member has been gone for a while and then reaches out to talk about potentially returning to the company, it may be worth having a conversation.
“Train your leadership and talent acquisition team to actively engage those who left you as they are an important source for your growth… make sure you welcome them back as they grow in their careers. Boomerang employees tend to be very loyal to the brand they love!” Quinn Votaw said.
In today’s labor crunch, hiring managers want a safe bet
Hiring managers tend to focus on asking high performers to return because there’s less risk of them leaving or not succeeding in the role compared with someone completely new to the organization, according to Abbie Shipp, a management professor at Texas Christian University who specializes in employee engagement over time.
The act of getting old employees to return can also be a big boost to a company’s employer brand and can even encourage workers thinking of looking for new opportunities to stay.
Here are a few questions to consider when deciding whether to rehire an employee:
- For what reason did they leave? Did they leave on amicable terms?
- Was the former employee productive in their department?
- Did their role challenge them?
- Are they trustworthy to arrive on time, attend meetings, meet deadlines, and work well with others?
- Is rehiring this employee a stable choice for the company?
Risk tolerance, initial turnover reasons, and need for stability are all important for organizations to consider when evaluating whether to rehire a past employee or look elsewhere.
If an organization is looking to increase staff for short-term demand, a returning worker might be the perfect solution — but don’t discount external candidates when seeking new people for the long term.