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What are boomerang employees?

Written by: Elizabeth Walker
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Originally published on March 8, 2023. Last updated May 1, 2023.

No employer wants to see a good employee leave their company. However, just because a worker resigns doesn’t mean they won’t be back. Recent research1 found that 43% of individuals who quit during the COVID-19 pandemic admitted they should have stayed at their old job. In fact, almost 1 in 5 people who quit have already returned to their previous employer.

Hiring a former employee isn’t a bad option if you're struggling to find top talent. Returning employees, or boomerang employees, comes with many benefits that can give you an edge over your competitors. But before you welcome them back, there are some factors to consider.

In this blog, we’ll explain everything you need to know about boomerang employees, including their pros and cons and how you can entice them to rejoin your organization.

Find out how adding various stipends to your benefits package can win over your employees in our guide

What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee is someone who leaves their current place of employment only to return to work for the same company later.

The length of time a boomerang employee may be gone varies. It can be as little as a few weeks or as much as a few years. However, the average boomerang employee returns to their former employer roughly 13 months2 after leaving.

During the Great Resignation, the boomerang employee trend became more common. As these types of workers generally leave employment on good terms, organizations are more willing to rehire boomerang employees for what they can bring to the table, whereas before, it was seen as taboo to quit and ask for the same job again later.

Why do employees boomerang?

Employees boomerang for a variety of reasons, both professional and personal. But no matter the reason, the boomerang trend has increased over the past few years. LinkedIn data3 found that boomerang employees represented 4.5% of all new hires among companies in 2021, which was up from 3.9% in 2019.

The following are common reasons why an employee may leave your organization:

  • They may have found a new opportunity that allows for greater career advancement, higher compensation, or the chance to learn new skills.
  • They’re interested in pursuing a passion or career path within a new industry.
  • They experience a significant life event, such as a relocation, caring for a child, serious medical condition, or family issues.
  • There’s an opportunity to work a seasonal or temporary job that will take them out of state for a time.
  • They wish to take a sabbatical or even just extended personal time off.

Once an employee leaves, there are various reasons they may want to return, including:

  • Their new job didn’t meet their expectations, or the role wasn’t as advertised.
  • The new company’s culture or benefits package isn’t a good fit.
  • The new company has few opportunities for professional development or advancement.
  • Their position doesn’t provide the work-life balance or flexibility that they need.
  • Their major life event has stabilized or concluded.
  • Their seasonal job, sabbatical, or need for time off has ended.

Pros of hiring boomerang employees

Hiring a previous employee has many advantages for employers. For example, boomerang employees tend to have lower turnover rates upon returning than industry averages for all workers. However, there are other benefits they bring to the table.

The following describe a few pros of hiring boomerang employees at your organization:

  1. You’ll have a faster and easier onboarding process: External hires require extensive onboarding and training before they’re up to speed and effective in their role. Boomerang employees already know your internal processes, tools, and resources, so they can dive in more quickly, saving you time and money and increasing productivity.
  2. They’re already familiar with your company’s culture: If a past employee returns, it’s a good bet they like your company’s culture, mission, and values. Depending on how long they were gone, they may still have a connection with your other employees which can boost collaboration, improve morale, and increase efficiency.
  3. They bring new skills from their previous job: Boomerang hires come with new skills which can be valuable in helping your organization grow and succeed. This is especially true if they worked for a competitor. But even if they didn’t, they’ll still return with increased knowledge and additional experience that can benefit their performance.
  4. You already know how they work: If you hire a former employee, you already have a track record of their performance and the quality of their work. Instead of taking a chance with a new hire, a boomerang employee makes your hiring decision less risky since you already know and have worked with who you’re getting.
  5. They can boost employee morale: When an employee returns to your organization, they’re essentially saying your company has impressed them enough to come back. Other employees, especially new hires, may find this company loyalty encouraging, which can positively impact morale, engagement, and retention.

Cons of hiring boomerang employees

While there are many pros to welcoming back an employee, there are some possible downsides that you’ll want to consider before you do.

The following describes the cons of rehiring a former employee:

  1. You may ignore more qualified candidates: Hiring a boomerang employee can be attractive because it’s easier to go with a candidate you know. But taking the simpler and more budget-friendly route may not get you the best results. In your rush to fill a spot quickly, you may skip over a new hire that would be a better fit for the position.
  2. They may have difficulty adjusting to any changes: The longer an employee is away, the more likely changes have occurred at your organization—and not everyone can accept changes quickly or gracefully. If you’ve changed policies, management, or company culture, returning employees may resist them, impacting performance and productivity.
  3. There’s always a chance they may leave again: The nature of boomerang workers means they’re a potential flight risk. While it’s true they’re more likely to stay at your company once they return, it’s understandable that you may fear them quitting a second time—especially if the cause that made them quit the first time occurs again.
  4. It may cause conflict with your current employees: Just because you’re excited to welcome back a former employer doesn’t mean everyone else will feel the same. You may have some current employees that didn’t work well with them, or they’re taking a role that others had their eye on. Whenever someone returns, there’s always a chance your current team will take issue with your decision, which can lower morale.
  5. Negotiating their new contract can be challenging: Even if a boomerang employee doesn’t feel like a new hire, you may consider them one. Therefore, offering them a contract they’ll want to accept can be difficult. If you start from scratch regarding position, tenure, or employee benefit waiting periods, resentment can form early on.

Tips for enticing boomerang employees back to your organization

While you may be disappointed by your employee’s decision to leave your company, there are things you can do to leave the door open and even encourage them to return.

This starts with conducting a positive exit interview where your employees feel supported and appreciated for all the work they’ve done. Once they’ve left, you can cultivate your relationship and continue highlighting your organization in a few ways.

1. Stay in touch

After an employee resigns, you can maintain a connection with them by keeping the lines of communication open. Assuming your offboarding process was a positive experience, your former employees parted on good terms. They may still feel loyal to your company and interested in returning someday.

The best way to stay in touch is through social media platforms or by creating an alumni network newsletter. This keeps employees up to date on your company and gives them access to open positions and direct contact information if and when they’re looking to return.

By keeping in contact with past employees, you’re fostering your relationship and making them feel wanted, which increases the likelihood they’ll remember you when it’s time to find a new job.

2. Keep your benefits package fresh

Salary isn’t the only thing employees care about when looking for employment. The benefits you offer are just as important. If a previous employee is less than impressed with their new employer's benefits package, the perks you offer may be just the thing that catches their attention.

You can build a better benefits package by researching your competitors’ offerings. Make sure your benefits exceed the norm, particularly when it comes to things like health insurance and sick time. The more personalized your benefits are, the more your employees will appreciate them.

For example, consider offering a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) instead of a traditional health benefit so your employees have greater flexibility and financial control over their healthcare. You can offer stipends that employees can use on various expenses like remote work, wellness, child care, cell phone and internet bills, tuition assistance, and more.

Don’t forget to include non-monetary perks like flexible work schedules, bereavement leave, and a robust paid time off (PTO) program to help you stand out. Finally, highlight your upgraded benefits package on your website and career sites where employees will see it in case they boomerang back.

3. Make sure your employee experience is a winner

If your employees leave on a positive note, their experience should be even better when they return. Because you’ll be staying in contact with former employees, they’ll be able to keep an eye on your company’s brand and culture, and you don’t want them to see anything that may disappoint. Therefore, it’s essential that your employee experience remains top-notch.

Revisit your company’s values and mission regularly to ensure your culture prioritizes collaboration, professional development, a healthy work-life balance, and employee satisfaction. Survey your current staff periodically to ensure you’re continuing to meet their need. If feedback tells you that you have room for improvement, be willing to make adjustments.

The more supportive and positive your workplace culture is, the more likely your talented former employees will notice, which might be the tipping point to get them to return.

Conclusion

Talented employees are in high demand these days. If you have an employee that leaves your company on good terms, their positive experiences may bring them back to you. You may think it’s too risky to hire boomerang workers. But if they’re high-performing, you’ll benefit from their skills, experience, and newly acquired knowledge—especially if they return after working for a competitor.

To retain a boomerang employee, make sure your benefits package includes several attractive perks, like an HRA or stipend. If you need help finding the best benefits out there while still sticking to a budget, contact us, and we’ll get you on the right track!

  1. https://www.ukg.com/about-us/newsroom/15-million-pandemic-era-us-job-quitters-say-they-were-better-their-old-job
  2. https://assets.ctfassets.net/lbgy40h4xfb7/2FD3xYTYoSL4hvCbuSdCMt/abf61b616ac9f450e02e9de90965695f/220705-pdf-insights-boomerang-FINAL.pdf
  3. https://www.workhuman.com/customer-success-stories/linkedin-linking-social-recognition-to-retention/
Originally published on March 8, 2023. Last updated May 1, 2023.
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