As employees around the world quit their jobs in droves, the Great Resignation quickly became a global phenomenon and job openings across industries hit all-time highs. In order to keep up with this increasing demand for workers, employers are expanding their talent pools in a variety of ways, including searching across new geographies, considering workers who are changing careers, implementing innovative recruitment marketing techniques and more.
However, as a result of the Great Resignation, we’re beginning to see an alternative talent pool emerge: Boomerang employees—workers who voluntarily resign from your company and later rejoin. In this article, we’ll explain who boomerang employees are; the benefits and considerations of hiring them; and how to attract this unique group of talent.
Who are Boomerang Employees?
Before you consider rehiring an employee who previously left your organization, it’s important to understand the key differentiators that separate potential boomerang employees from permanent alumni.
As the term suggests, permanent alumni will remain just that—permanently separated from an organization. These individuals likely stayed at the company for many years and had a good grasp of the organization’s overall culture and values. However, at a certain point, these individuals decided that the company was not the right fit for them; this could be due to dissatisfaction with company culture, the need for a career change or any number of other work-related issues. Note here that a key factor in any of these reasons for leaving is an internal desire to resign.
Conversely, boomerang employees are more likely to have left a company quickly due to external factors, such as a sudden family emergency or an unexpected competing job offer that was too good to decline. So, while permanent alumni chose to leave because they were unsatisfied with the company in some way, boomerang employees are more likely to consider re-joining because they left for other reasons—none of which implied that they had an issue with the company in the first place.
“I guess I’m an extreme example of a boomerang employee, being 12 years between engagements. I first worked for Springboard way back in 2008. My wife and I had just returned from living in England and had recently had our first child, and Springboard was a great chance for me to apply the budding skills I’d developed selling a recruitment solution in Europe. After 2 years I left to explore other roles in the industry, and spent the next 12 years building my knowledge and expertise at other SaaS providers.
A few months ago Springboard approached me about heading up their sales function, an opportunity I’d been searching for some time, and I was truly excited at the prospect of taking on the challenge and applying everything I’d learned since leaving the business many years ago. It’s been 3 months now and I’m absolutely loving it. The product is as rich and functional as I remember, and even more heartening a large number of my old colleagues are still here, a testament to how Springboard nurtures and treats their employees.
So yes, an extreme example of a Boomerang, but also a good case study in the benefits of keeping in contact with your alumni employees. I come back into the business knowing our product, our market and most importantly our customers and I’m looking forward to helping the business continue to grow and thrive.”
Chris Broadway, Technology Sales Manager
During the pandemic, the world was reminded how quickly life can change. Whether employees left your organisation to pursue other opportunities or to prioritize caring for their family, these types of employees create a whole new pool of talent that could be the perfect fit for your organization. After some time has passed, many of these people could be on the job hunt again—and your organisation could serve as the right choice at the right time.
Benefits of Hiring Boomerang Employees
Rehiring former employees can present a variety of benefits for employers. Here are some of the biggest reasons to consider looking back at your previous hires:
- Save Time & Money – Hiring a former employee reduces the hiring timeline and cuts down on overall recruiting costs. And, because these employees have previous experience working at your company, they will require less time and fewer resources to onboard and get up to speed to hit the ground running.
- Eliminate Second-Guessing – When you hire a former employee, you won’t have to wonder whether they’ll be a cultural fit; you already know how they fit in with the company and how they work with various people in the organization—something that always remains a slight unknown when hiring someone completely new.
- Gain Fresh Perspective – Former employees are unique in the fact that they have had some time to step away and see the organisation from the outside. Often, employees may have left to advance their career at another company and gain valuable skills. Then, when they return, they’ll be equipped with increased knowledge and experience to bring new ideas and insight into your organization.
- Boost Employer Brand – Rehiring employees also sends a positive message to existing employees and can improve an organisation’s employer brand overall. By giving employees a second chance, it shows that the company is willing to bring people back and help them reach their potential – even if they previously left on their own accord. Furthermore, to existing employees (perhaps some of whom were considering leaving themselves), it shows that the company is worth coming back to, thereby leading to improved retention and employee satisfaction.
- Make Employees Happy – employees who left a job during the pandemic may now realize that they miss some aspects of their old company. Returning to a previous employer with new skills and a fresh perspective can mean higher pay, more growth opportunities and, in some cases, the ability to work from anywhere, which may not have been an option pre-pandemic. Consequently, these employees will likely be happy with their decision to return—leading to improved productivity for your organization.
Mobilising your Workforce – Past and Present
Talent Mobility has been a buzzword for many years now, but how many organisations have embraced this in a meaningful way? Few organisations can boast that they can fully support geographical, vertical, horizontal or cross functional moves with any degree of data-backed surety.
Research shows that employees who can’t visualise a career path in their company quickly become disenfranchised and look for advancement opportunities elsewhere. Nakisa.com research showed that 18% of employee turnovers cite “Opportunities for Growth, achievement and security” as their reasons for leaving, the highest of any metric.
A robust mobility program must be more than just an internal jobs board, it must provide employees with a way of expressing their skills, characteristics, motivations and career goals in a way that’s engaging and meaningful. Simply searching employees resumes from when they applied to your organisation means you’re only looking at historical data and missing out on how they’ve developed and grown while working for you.
Technology can provide a platform that generates these conversations with employees about their hopes and expectations in their career, and provide robust, useable data to make better decisions and build succession plans for critical roles. It allows your organisation to become forward looking, future proof your workforce and build a culture of transparency and growth, ultimately reducing that 18% and retaining good employees for the long term.
Questions to ask before hiring a Boomerang Employee
- How much time has past? Can they jump back in?
- Are They Adaptable? Can they move the pace of today?
- Are They the Best? Did this employee performed well in their previous tenure?
- Were They Missed? Ensure an employee will have a positive impact with the team
- Why Do They Want to Return? Was there a reason to leave in the first place
How to Keep the Door Open to Boomerang Employees
While some employees may choose to reapply to your company in the future, many former employees may never consider re-joining or even know it’s an option without first hearing from a former colleague or manager. In this situation, what’s the best way to reach out to these former employees?
Here are four strategies for re-recruiting former employees:
- Skills Assessment & Visibility – As technology advances and becomes more capable of on providing deeper insights into your employees and candidates, it provides an opportunity to generate some granular data about the ideal traits and characteristics needed to be successful in a role, and brings to the spotlight untapped talent within your existing talent pool or employee alumni.
- Existing Employees – Let your current employees know you’d like to consider a former employee for the role and, if they’re willing, they can bring the idea up with the former colleague and encourage them to apply.
- Direct Manager Outreach – For a former employee, it can be extremely powerful to hear directly from a former leader that the company and team wants them back. And, by hearing directly from a manager, the former employee is likely to take the offer seriously and understand that they are specifically who the team and leader want.
- Employee Alumni Nurture Campaigns – If your company is looking to fill multiple roles at once, a larger campaign might make the most sense. This can include a list of all high-performing employees who left in the last year and serve as a check-in to see where they are in their career now and whether they’d be interested in taking on a new role in the company.
Beyond the Boomerang Employee
In order for people to be willing to come back, organisations must ensure that their company is one that people want to return to (or, ideally, one they won’t want to leave at all). This means fostering a welcoming and empowering culture, as well as placing strong emphasis on growth and development of all employees. These highly engaged employees then become brand advocates and can help to attract new talent into the fold by referral.
In summary, when people feel valued, included and invested in, they’re less likely to leave your company for another. Then, even when human factors cause them to be pulled away, they’ll be willing and ready to return when the time is right.