Boomerang Employees – 3 Reasons To Rehire And 2 Reasons To Avoid Them

I used to think it meant someone wasn’t loyal if they left. But now we’re actually reaching out to former employees to see who's interested in returning.

Throughout the years, the two of us have heard countless stories of regret from managers who let stellar employees slip through their fingers. These managers often turn to us for advice on how they can avoid losing more great employees. And, we’re always happy to share findings from global studies focused on things like talent magnetsappreciation, and wellbeing—concepts that if mastered have shown massive increases in both commitment and performance.

Still, there’s another force that can act like kryptonite to any company’s best employee retention strategy. It can make the most committed employee’s eyes wander. It can make the best cultural fits wonder if the grass could be greener somewhere else. And, that powerful force is at play right now—it’s the current talent shortage. Unemployment is hitting record lows. Companies are scrambling to recruit people to their organizations by offering enticing salaries, perks, and opportunities. Some of your best employees might be wooed into leaving your company. It happens. And, it’s okay, because a surprising number of employees could boomerang back to you. The question is, should you hire them back or should you avoid them altogether?

“I always thought it was a bad idea to rehire employees,” Carl, an internal recruiter wrote to us via social media. “I always thought it meant someone wasn’t loyal if they left. But, now I’m actually thinking the opposite. Now I see the benefits of hiring boomerang employees. In fact, we’re actually reaching out to some of the employees who left us and asking if they’d be interested in coming back.”

Many other organizations have changed the way they were thinking about former employees as well. In fact, many of the largest companies aren’t avoiding former employees anymore. Instead, they’re taking initiative to create corporate alumni groups so they can stay connected.   Microsoft, Citigroup, Dell, SAP, JPMorgan and Deloitte are just a few examples of the companies who are making efforts to maintain positive relationships with former employees. And, according to an article from SHRM, one of the top three business drivers of remaining involved with former employees is talent acquisition.

So, what are the reasons you should cultivate a relationship with possible boomeranging employees? What are the positives, and what are the negatives you should avoid?

Let’s start with the reasons you should consider hiring former employees.

  1. It’s cost-effective. Let’s start with the simple math. While it may be true that you’re offering a boomerang employee a higher salary than when they left, it’s important to realize that former employees not only take less time reach their full productivity capacity and engage in your culture, but an article in Glassdoor suggests that the entire hiring process can be cut up to 50 percent compared to other unknown applicants.

  2. Fit is not a guess. Even with all tools available today designed to tell employers if a new employee will be a good culture fit, you already know exactly how former employees fit in at both the organization, and how they worked with numerous individuals.

  3. They bring back fresh perspective. If an employee was wooed to a company because they saw an opportunity to advance their career, then they’ve gained valuable experience during the time they were gone. Maybe they come back with a new skill set, more leadership experience, or even experience and insights into how other companies handle situations that could benefit your organization.

And, what are the reasons you should avoid boomerang employees?

  1. They, personally, weren’t missed. We understand that performance is a draw of every company. But, personality also has a place in culture and if a certain employee’s individual results were great but their personality left others feeling marginalized, or even in some cases offended, then it’s time to hit the brakes. You don’t want to bring anyone back into your organization that may hinder the productivity of the rest of your team.

  2. They might be easy, but are they the best? While it’s true that boomerang employees might have an advantage over most candidates, it doesn’t mean they are the best person for the job. We would recommend that you, as a leader, weigh the pros and cons heavily, and with an understanding that although a former colleague may be less expensive to hire, and they may have already been proven to be a cultural fit, that rock star might still be out their waiting—with a hunger you’ve never experienced before. So, keep your options open. Look for the best. And, don’t settle for easy.

As two guys who have both been successful boomerang employees at some point our careers, we might be a little biased in the discussion. However, we both know what it’s like to leave an organization for what we thought was a better opportunity and realize that our purpose, our passion, and our skill sets had already found a home. And, that’s not a bad thing for a company, or any of the employees of that company to realize—that someone appreciated us enough to take us back.

If you’re facing the talent shortage like we are, it’s critical that you give every employee a reason stay. And, it’s critical that you give every employee a reason to want to return. Because, even if they don’t return, they’ll become brand ambassadors for a lifetime.

About the Authors

We are researchers, consultants and authors inside the O.C. Tanner Institute, and we write about people who make a difference—what they think about, what they do, and how they achieve extraordinary results. David Sturt is executive vice president at the O.C. Tanner Institute and author of “Great Work: How To Make A Difference People Love.” Nordstrom is Director of Institute Content. He has been a driving force and voice of business publishing and management sciences throughout his entire career. The two consult with leaders and speak at leadership conferences around the world.

Our latest book is Appreciate: Celebrating People, Inspiring Greatness, or learn more about the NYT Bestselling book Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love.

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