Importance of Evaluating if They are Worth Bringing Back in the First Place
Written by HRCap, Inc.
November 17, 2022
What is a “Boomerang Employee”
During the pandemic, many employees reprioritized their life and decided to resign from their job to either change jobs or pursue an entirely different career. Many resigned to seek opportunities with flexible working, better compensation, better work-life balance, and upskilling opportunities.
Specifically, in 2021, over 47 million people resigned from their jobs. This grand shift has emerged as the ongoing phenomenon, the Great Resignation. The job market also changed in favor of the job-seeker in 2022 because there were twice as many job openings as there were unemployed people. This made it easier for employees to quit their job for new opportunities.
However, many of these employees regretted their decision. Of those that quit their jobs, 43% admitted they were actually better off at their old job. As a result, employees that left are now slowly returning to their previous workplaces. The returning former employees are known as “boomerang employees.”
Although rehiring boomerang employees were frowned upon in the past, this practice has recently become much more acceptable as companies continue to face an urgency to fill empty positions. In fact, in 2021, 27% of newly hired employees were returning employees.
In this blog, we highlight the benefits and challenges of rehiring boomerang employees to advise on the proper process for doing so. This will help companies effectively assess whether it is the right course of action given their current workforce strategies and 2023 recruiting pipelines.
5 Benefits of Rehiring Boomerang Employees
1. Mutual Understanding
Once employers learn how to identify boomerang employees, they will also be able to predict their behavior, thus considering them a lower risk than other external hires. For example, one case study on Sodexo’s rehiring program shows that when they rehired boomerang employees, they had a 44% higher retention rate over a three-year time frame than other external hires.
2. Better Immediate Job Performance
Since boomerang employees have, at one point in time, worked at the company, they have already experienced the transition and onboarding that often takes complete new hires a longer time to get used to. This familiarity often leads to better job performance at the start of their hire. According to a 2021 Cornell University research project, boomerang employees nearly always performed better than completely new hires. One factor is that they are familiar with the company’s organizational social structure, which gives them an advantage in cross-department collaboration.
3. Quicker Onboarding
Because returning employees are already familiar with the company culture and policies, their onboarding process will take less time and fewer resources. This reduces training time and speeds up the process of fulfilling any urgent job responsibilities and any skill gaps (LinkedIn).
4. Overall Lower Costs
Employers can also significantly save on recruiting and training costs by rehiring a former employee. If they consider rehiring, hiring managers would not need to invest in advertising the open position. According to a 2015 Portland State University doctoral research article, employers can save anywhere from one-third to two-thirds on recruiting costs when hiring a returning boomerang employee.
5. Stronger Skills and Experience
After gaining experience at a different company, boomerang employees would have developed newer skills or strengthened their current skill set. This allows them to bring competitive skills, fresh new perspectives, and higher work performance to the organization when rehired.
On the same token, employers should also consider implementing a comprehensive learning and development program, because one of the top reasons boomerang employees leave in the first place is the lack of growth opportunities. Based on the 2019 LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees would have stayed longer at a company if they invested in helping them learn.
5 Ways to Evaluate Boomerang Employees
Although former employees provide many benefits, there are still various risks that come with rehiring these returning employees. Employers must consider taking proper steps to evaluate returning employees and assess whether they will be worth rehiring.
1. Consider Timing
Depending on how long ago the former employee left, the company may first need to consider if there were any changes, such as policies, workflow, and teams. Companies should also consider that the longer the employee stays away from an organization, the less likely they will return. According to 2022 Visier research, the critical time frame for rehires is 13 months because the chances of returning after that duration sharply decrease.
2. Assess Past Performance
Before rehiring former employees, employers must first review and evaluate their past performance. Boomerang employees' past performance will be an indicator of how they will perform after being rehired. However, employers should also factor in the rehires’ newly gained skills after upskilling. As such, companies should consider how the new skill sets will improve the former employees’ individual performance and contribute to the team’s dynamic.
3. Conduct a Thorough Interview
Hiring managers should conduct a thorough interview to properly probe the returning employee’s motivation for coming back to the organization. Some questions to consider asking include:
For what reason did you initially leave the company?
Why are you leaving your current company?
What are you looking forward to in this role and company?
What are some skills and experiences you have gained after your departure?
Have you stayed in touch with anyone or closely followed our recent development?
How will you apply those newly gained skills to our team and organization?
What is most important to you in your career at this time?
What would motivate you to stay engaged in this role, should you return?
What are some challenges you foresee when you join the company again?
What would you like to accomplish now that you are back?
The ultimate goals are to fully vet and assess whether they are genuinely interested in growing the company and whether they have developed professionally after initially leaving the company.
4. Evaluate Previous Relationships
Hiring managers should also take the due time to conduct proper internal reference checks by engaging former coworkers, team, and managers about returning employees on these questions.
That said, organizations must strictly adhere to Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regulations and ensure that reference checks are conducted with the consent of the returning employee.
5. Implement Proper Onboarding
Most importantly, the company needs to implement personalized onboarding that addresses any changes the company may have gone through and familiarize them with the employment brand (MIT Sloan). It is always important to follow standard protocol with paperwork and orientation and not give the impression that the boomerang employee is receiving special treatment (Monster).
Companies must invest in developing a strong onboarding process because it can improve new hire retention by 82% and increase productivity by over 70%.
Hiring a boomerang employee may not always guarantee that they will stay at the company long-term once they return. Therefore, companies need to also consider why the employee left in the first place and implement strategies to hire and retain strong talent from the get-go.
[Related: Guide to Making the Right Hire]
Companies should focus on actively addressing employee needs and providing a workplace environment that will make employees think twice about leaving. By addressing the root issue, companies will be able to recruit and retain the right hire.
Source: HRCap, HBR, UKG, Visier, HuffPost, Cornell University, LinkedIn, Portland State University, MIT Sloan, Monster
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