What You Need to Know About “Boomerang” Hires
While many people may choose to leave an organization for new opportunities, sometimes they decide to return to that employer for another chance. How do you know if these “boomerang” employees are a good fit for your association? Here’s a look at some considerations when rehiring these employees.
A few years after saying goodbye to a great employee, their name pops up while reviewing resumes for an open position at your organization. Even if you haven’t experienced this situation yet, it may only be a matter of time before you see former staffers wanting to return.
Although large numbers of American workers quit their jobs during the pandemic to look for better opportunities, many have started to regret that decision.
For example, a 2022 study from payroll firm UKG found that 43 percent of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic admitted that they were better off at their old companies. Respondents indicated that they missed their coworkers (38 percent), the familiarity of their roles (31 percent), customers (22 percent), compensation (19 percent), and work-life balance (16 percent).
“These employees may have thought they were leaving for greener pastures but now want to return,” said Yuletta Pringle, SHRM-CMP, HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management. “Employers are seeing more reasons to rehire these employees than they did years ago when company loyalty was highly valued.”
Rehiring these so-called “boomerang” employees can be a challenging yet rewarding decision. That’s why associations should keep several considerations in mind before rolling out the “welcome back” mat.
Rehiring former employees has cost-saving potential for the organization. Typically, it takes several months to a year before a new employee thoroughly understands their role and even longer for an organization to see a return on their investment.
“However, boomerang employees know your organization and its practices, so they’ll catch up quickly,” Pringle said.
Bringing back an employee can also provide time-saving costs, particularly by shortening the hiring period. While it can take weeks or months for organizations to recruit qualified candidates, a returning employee could cut down the search and interview time, especially if they left on good terms and the interviewers already know the employee’s qualifications and work style.
“Another big piece is comradery,” Pringle said. “If they were a good performer and left the organization on great terms with their manager and peers, then staff will likely be excited for their return. That can be a boost to morale and the organization’s culture.”
To build a culture that welcomes boomerang employees, associations should stay in touch with staff who leave.
“You could create an alumni network for former employees and encourage current employees to connect with these individuals on professional platforms,” Pringle said. “This way, former employees stay connected to your organization and will be aware if a position opens that may entice them to come back.”
Pringle also recommends associations develop policies and procedures for returning employees if they haven’t already. As part of that, establish who is eligible and ineligible for rehire so there’s a process in place for vetting boomerang employees.
“That way you’re more likely to bring back employees who are well-suited to the rehiring process and weed out individuals who shouldn’t return,” Pringle said.
According to Pringle, boomerang employees should be treated like new hires by undergoing an onboarding process and being given managerial support.
“You still want to monitor their performance and analyze their cultural fit,” she said. “They’ve been at your organization in the past, but things may have changed, and they may need time getting acclimated. Having the support and process in place can help.”
While there are many benefits to boomerang employees, associations should be aware that they will likely not bring instantaneous changes to the organization.
“Department heads should be cautiously optimistic about these employees,” Pringle said. “Just because that person fit into the organization a few years ago, doesn’t mean that they’re a good fit now.”
Pringle also recommends managers work with these employees to manage their expectations around growth and promotion.
“These employees may view their return as a chance for fast growth because of their familiarity and experience with your organization,” she said. “However, growth is a process, so managers should help these employees set realistic goals and expectations for themselves, so everyone is on the same page.”