The pros and cons of hiring boomerang employees

They leave, go work for someone else and then come right back to you; normally within one to two years. That’s a boomerang employee.

One international survey suggested that as many as 20 percent of employees who quit during the pandemic boomeranged although data from LinkedIn put the figure in 2021 at a more modest 5 percent.

Either way, it is a phenomenon to be aware of.

It could be the promise of better pay or promotion that motivates employees to leave; or perhaps they feel stuck in a rut, have fallen out with colleagues or have challenges that they cannot overcome.

When the resignation letter arrives on your desk you may already have a pretty clear idea whether you would want to work with them again (or shudder at the thought). Such gut instinct will undoubtedly come into any future decision-making, but there is a bit more to weigh up.

Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of welcoming boomerang employees back.

Pros of hiring boomerang employees

There are some obvious benefits to hiring a boomerang employee.

Hitting the ground running
There’s a lot to be said for an employee being able to hit the ground running. It could save you considerable time in both assimilating them into the culture of the business and the specifics of the role. With their prior knowledge of how things work, they can be up to speed in no time, driving productivity for you.

Bringing broader experience
It is not a given, so assess it whilst recruiting, but a returning employee should have picked up valuable experience whilst working for someone else. This could be in new systems and processes, technical skills or management. Welcoming them back will inject this extra value straight into your business.

The grass is not always greener
Having left you and returned, it is a strong indication that a boomerang employee realises that things are not always better elsewhere. They may have been let down by a new employer, dislike their new commute or not have struck up positive relationships with colleagues. Now that they want to come back, you would expect they will value what you have to offer more than they did previously.

Accessing a significant talent pool
Whether the figure for boomerang employees is closer to 5 percent or 20 percent it still represents a significant talent pool. When recruitment markets are tough, you need every avenue available to you. Make every effort to leave on good terms and have processes to check in with former employees after a year to see how they are getting on.

Cons of hiring boomerang employees

Of course, it is not a one-way bet hiring a boomerang employee.

In fact, there are some significant pitfalls to watch out for.

Sparking disharmony
Be wary of the office politics surrounding rehires, particularly if you bring back employees on a higher salary or in a higher position than their old colleagues who stuck with you. Even if it appears justified or necessary to the business, it will quite likely spark resentment amongst the rest of your team.

History repeating itself
While they may have realised that the grass is not greener elsewhere, it is important to explore whether there were any push factors which drove them away originally. If there were, and they are still present, then you and your employee may run into the same problems again.

The “good” old days
Equally, the opposite could be true. If your business has moved on since their departure, all the familiarity that they bring back to you could actually become a cultural clash, dragging you backwards. The risk of this grows the longer they have been away from you.

Help with recruitment
So while embracing the concept of boomerang employees may be a valid and indeed valuable recruitment channel in 2023, each candidate should be assessed on their own merits in the current context. If you would like a review of your recruitment processes or support with hiring for a specific role, contact your local HR Dept office.

The pros and cons of hiring boomerang employees

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