What is a boomerang employee?


Kaitlin  Herbert By

What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee is a person who leaves a company and returns to work for the same company in the future. Boomerang employees might leave for a variety of reasons, such as to pursue a new opportunity, take care of personal matters or gain experience at another company. However, they often return to their former employer because they enjoyed the work environment, the corporate culture or the people they worked with.

Twenty-eight percent of “new hires” were returning employees who had left the company within the previous 36 months, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review. The study found that boomerang employees are more likely to be managers than nonmanagers and return within 13 months, on average.

There has also been a rise in boomerang employees related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-three percent of people who quit during the pandemic believed they were better off at their old jobs, a 2022 study by payroll company UKG found. Moreover, one in five of those surveyed have already returned to their previous companies.

Why do boomerang employees return?

Boomerang employees return to their former employers for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Positive work experience. Boomerang employees often return to companies where they had a positive employee experience, including good relationships with colleagues and managers, opportunities for growth and development, and a satisfactory work-life balance.
  • Company culture. Employees might be drawn back to companies with a culture with which they feel aligned. This could include a shared mission and values; a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and a fun and supportive work environment.
  • New skills and experience. Employees might leave their former employers to gain new skills and experience at other companies. However, they might decide to return if they feel that their new skills and experience would be an asset to their former employer.
  • Better opportunities. Employees might return to their former employers if they find the company now offers better opportunities, such as a promotion, a higher salary or more flexibility.
  • Changes at the company. Employees might also return to their former employers if the company has made changes that make it more attractive, such as new benefits, a new management team or a new focus on employee engagement.
  • Sense of loyalty. Boomerang employees might also return to their former employers because they feel a sense of loyalty to the company or because they simply missed working there.

Pros of boomerang employees

Overall, hiring boomerang employees can be a win-win for both the company and employee. Companies can save money on hiring and training costs and gain access to a pool of experienced, motivated employees. Employees can return to a company that they know and love, quickly get up to speed and make a positive contribution. Some pros of hiring boomerang employees include the following:

  • Reduced hiring costs. Boomerang employees typically require less onboarding and training than new hires, as they are already familiar with the company’s culture, policies and procedures.
  • Increased productivity. Boomerang employees are often more productive than new hires, as they have a better understanding of the company’s products and services and can quickly get up to speed on new projects.
  • Improved employee morale. Hiring boomerang employees can boost employee morale by showing the company values its former employees and is willing to give them a second chance.
  • Enhanced company culture. Boomerang employees can bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to the company, which can help improve the overall company culture.
  • Stronger employee retention. Boomerang employees are often more likely to stay with the company longer than new hires, as they have already experienced the company’s culture and have a network of colleagues and friends.
  • Access to a wider talent pool. By staying in touch with former employees, companies can tap into a wider talent pool when they have openings.
  • Reduced risk. Boomerang employees are familiar to the company, so there is less risk of hiring someone who will not be a good fit for the company culture or who will not be able to perform the job duties.
  • Improved customer relationships. Boomerang employees who have previously worked with customers can bring valuable relationships back to the company.
  • Increased brand loyalty. When companies hire boomerang employees, it shows that they value their employees and are willing to invest in them. This can help to improve the company’s brand reputation and attract new customers.

Drawbacks and risks of boomerang employees

The decision to hire a boomerang employee should be made on a case-by-case basis. Companies should weigh the potential benefits and risks carefully to make the best decision for the company. While hiring boomerang employees can offer several benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks and risks to consider, including the following:

  • Resentment among current employees. If boomerang employees are hired at higher salaries or given preferential treatment, it can create resentment among current employees who have stayed with the company.
  • Past performance issues. If a boomerang employee left the company due to performance issues, there is a risk that those issues could resurface.
  • Unrealistic expectations. Boomerang employees might have unrealistic expectations about their return. They might expect things to be just as they left them or expect to be given a promotion or raise immediately.
  • Lack of fresh perspectives. Boomerang employees might not bring fresh perspectives or new ideas to the company, as they might be set in their ways or resistant to change.
  • Short-term commitment. Boomerang employees might only be returning to the company out of necessity and might leave again once they find a better opportunity.
  • Unresolved issues. If a boomerang employee left the company due to unresolved issues, those issues might still exist and could cause problems for the company.

To mitigate these risks, companies should carefully assess the reasons why a boomerang employee left the company and whether those issues have been addressed. They should also set clear expectations for the employee’s return and ensure that the employee is a good fit for the company culture.

Tips for a boomerang recruitment strategy

Implementing a successful boomerang recruitment strategy requires a thoughtful approach that prioritizes maintaining positive relationships with former employees and creating an environment that encourages their return. Here are some key tips to consider:

  1. Maintain positive relationships. Stay connected with former employees through regular communication and alumni programs.
  2. Gather valuable feedback. Conduct exit interviews to understand why employees leave and address any issues.
  3. Track employee departure data. Maintain a database of former employees and their contact information.
  4. Create a welcoming environment. Foster a culture that values boomerang employees and their contributions.
  5. Use employee referrals. Encourage current employees to refer former colleagues they believe would be a good fit.
  6. Showcase company changes. Highlight any positive changes and advancements the company has made.
  7. Tailor outreach efforts. Personalize communication with former employees to show that the company values their individual experiences.
  8. Offer competitive compensation. Ensure that compensation and benefits packages are attractive to boomerang hires.
  9. Evaluate the success of the strategy. Regularly assess the effectiveness of the company’s boomerang recruitment efforts.

By implementing these tips, companies can cultivate a strong boomerang recruitment strategy that attracts valuable talent back into the organization, reaping the benefits of their experience, knowledge and commitment to the company’s success.

This was last updated in November 2023

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