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Boomerang Employees: All You Need To Know About Them

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Not long ago, the concept of boomerang employees was a little out of the ordinary. Such workers were sometimes stigmatized, with the notion that they couldn't "make it" outside the safe haven of their former employer. Even the employers preferred not to rehire those who had freely quit their positions. But today, when employers scramble to fill recurring vacancies in their workforces, these so-called "boomerang employees" are finding a more accepting audience.

This article explores the boomerang phenomenon in more detail since it is likely to persist as the workforce landscape changes due to the pandemic.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Concept of Boomerang employees, and the pros and cons of hiring them.
  2. Examples of boomerang employees (commoners) and their reasons for rejoining their previous employers.
  3. 5 best practices to welcome back boomerang employees.

Who Are Boomerang Employees?

"Boomerang employees" refers to employees who return to their former employers. They are the ones who return to their previous workplaces in pursuit of better compensation and more accommodating schedules, with companies seizing the opportunity to rehire "brilliant people they know are trustworthy."

Here’s Brian Nagele’s (CEO and hiring manager of Restaurant Clicks) take on the current state of boomerang employees in the U.S:

Boomerang employees are making a high comeback in the face of the Great Resignation. With existing staff numbers dwindling, more companies are becoming open to hiring past employees. Despite how things may look, there are still plenty of job seekers on the market who are ready and willing to return to previous roles.

The Rise of The Boomerang Employees Trend

Although the concept of boomerang employees is not new, the COVID-related waves of layoffs and attrition, along with the Great Resignation, have increased the number of workers who want to return to their previous employers.

In a research conducted in 2022 on more than 2,500 employees by a job search website, it was discovered that 72% of those who left their positions felt "surprise or regret" since the new job or firm they joined turned out to be "quite different" from what they were led to believe.

Another data from LinkedIn says:

Of all new hires among companies on LinkedIn, 4.5% were boomerang workers in 2021, compared to 3.9% in 2019.

According to another UKG study, 43% of people who gave up their jobs during the pandemic now admit they were better off at their previous position.

People like Steve Jobs, Steve Huffman (the co-founder of Reddit), and LeBron James have all left their high-profile positions and then returned to the same firm, increasing the popularity of this practice.

Let's now take some examples of boomerang employees (commoners) and their reasons for rejoining their previous employers.

The following instances are based on information from threads of an American social news aggregation, content rating, and discussion website.

The names of the employees have been changed to protect their privacy.

  • Michael: Software developer Michael used to work for a tech startup, but he resigned to join a larger company that had greater stability and better benefits. However, he didn't like how bureaucratic and constricting the corporate atmosphere was. He decided to return to his previous business when it offered him the chance to work on a fascinating project since he missed the independence and creativity he had previously experienced.

I realized that the high salary offered by my new company was not worth it compared to the stress and anxiety that the job causes me.

  • Emily: Emily was a sales representative for a retailer but left to consider starting her own business. She launched her own company but struggled with funding and market viability. She returned to her prior position with a fresh outlook and a renewed sense of purpose after realising the value of the reliable income and professional network she had developed at her previous firm.

I returned to a regular job after I couldn't make it with my first venture. When I interviewed, it wasn't labeled as an "entrepreneurial failure." It was labeled more as me being an employee at the company for two years. Overall it was viewed positively.

  • John: A manufacturer employed engineer John, but he quit to work for a rival who could pay him more. Nevertheless, he discovered that the new company's organizational culture and working atmosphere did not reflect his principles. He made the decision to go back after his former employer got in touch with him about a chance for professional growth and a more collaborative work environment.

I left for a competitor enticed by a higher salary, but their culture didn't align with my values. When my former employer offered career advancement and a collaborative work environment, I returned, feeling at home and able to thrive.

  • Rhea: Rhea made the decision to leave her former employer since she was unhappy with the pay because it wasn't rising at a decent rate. She eventually went back to their previous work, though, for a number of reasons. Her affection for her teammates and the welcoming office environment were important contributing factors.

Left because compensation wasn’t increasing at a reasonable rate. Returned because I liked and missed my coworkers and the culture here. Also, they were willing and able to re-hire me at a much higher rate after establishing myself in a more senior role at another company.

And interestingly, more than 76 percent of the 1,800 HR professionals polled in a survey were more open to recruiting former employees than in the past.

Remember, not all boomerang employees are excited to rejoin your company. Some may reapply out of financial necessity or limited job options. Others may have questionable intentions, such as seeking information for a competitor. Thorough vetting is crucial to ensure their motivations align with your company's values and goals.

Is Hiring Boomerang Employees A Good Idea or A Poor Solution?

Although it is inevitable for employees to depart for "greener pastures," there are several instances in which this is not always the case. And that's when workers come back to work for your company.

Personally, I think there is some room for skepticism when it comes to rehiring former employees. But without a doubt, if the motives and ethics of these employees are in the right place, it can be beneficial.

Some boomerang employees would want to feel at ease returning to a familiar workplace. In contrast, some others could feel trapped at the same time.

But just as time evolves, so does the human spirit.

Therefore, this decision could either be your best or worst to date. And when it comes time to make your final decision, keeping a list of the benefits and drawbacks of having boomerang employees can be useful.

Pros Of Having Boomerang Employees


1. Familiarity

They know your company well. Thus, they are familiar with job duties and job expectations.

Avoid hiring someone you've previously worked with merely based on familiarity. their work ethic, abilities, and general demeanor.

2. Expectation

You know the quality of their work and, thus, know what to expect in terms of quality and quantity of work.

3. Easy and economical onboarding

You can expect a very less time-consuming and much more cost-effective onboarding process.

Boomerang employees are more in demand than new employees in the US. Surveys suggest that 75 percent of companies prefer hiring boomerang employees over new employees. This hiring of boomerang employees is trending in many US companies because it is cost-efficient and less of a hassle. - Layla Acharya, the owner of EdWize.

4. Internal employer branding

When they see people returning voluntarily, your current employees gain trust in you and your brand. It will be a huge help when it comes to retaining your current employees.

Here's an exciting podcast to learn more about employer branding:

5. Experience

The exposure and expertise boomerang employees bring back will increase their value, which is another advantage for the firm.

6. Information

Boomerang employees might return with crucial market data and long-awaited fresh ideas if they previously joined a rival company.

An 2023 HBR analysis shows that the majority of boomerang workers return to their first employers within 13 months after leaving, 26% within seven months, and more than 75% by month 16. This shows that six-month and one-year check-in periods, with offers of return where appropriate, might be quite advantageous for both the employer and the employee.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin.

The Cons Of Having Boomerang Employees


1. Non-willingness to adapt

Boomerang workers may resist change and newer practices and want the workplace to stay the same, resulting in disharmony.

2. Rekindles old disputes

Rehiring former workers may rekindle previous disputes. Additionally, there is always a chance that some current workers would resent a rehire, particularly if they are given a position that is more important than the one they previously held.

3. A decline in dependability and responsibility

They might have had a legitimate reason for leaving, which is why you let them go. Thus, the reliability and accountability criteria are hampered by their return.

4. Interviewing the boomerang employees

Generally speaking, hiring a boomerang employee should be the same as hiring any other employee. However, certain details need to be treated with caution. Some questions should be asked to a prospective boomerang worker that is unnecessary for first-time hires. For example:

  1. What did you like/dislike about your last company?
  2. How is your relationship with your last manager/teammates?
  3. What have you been doing since you left the company?
  4. Please walk me through your resume since leaving. What skills and experiences have you gained?
  5. Do you have unresolved issues with the company or former co-workers we need to know?
  6. Why did you choose to leave last time, and how likely is that factor to come into play and lead to you leaving again shortly?

Boomerang employees are paid more than similar-level employees who have been with the company for longer. According to Visier data from 3 million employee records at 129 international companies between January and April 2022, the typical boomerang employee received a 28% salary rise after re-joining their previous workplace. The average boomerang employee came back 13 months after leaving.

5 Best Practices To Welcome Back Boomerang Employees


1. Reconsider reviewing your rehiring procedure

You should double-check the cause of former employees' exits before evaluating whether they are employable. Additionally, improve your talent acquisition process by developing a rigorous rehiring procedure backed by policies and guidelines.

Remember to follow a proper procedure when dealing with possible candidates; record their information, examine their résumé, ask for a cover letter, and hold an interview before determining whether to move forward.

2. Onboard him like a new hire

The best method to reacquaint the employee with your employment brand and get them enthusiastic about the changes is to treat them as if they are brand-new.

3. Take a talent review

You can undertake talent reviews to determine your boomerang employees' past performance or whether their skills fit their present positions.

Although welcoming back alumni can evoke sentiments of nostalgia and thoughts of "the good old days," your objective should be to select the top applicant for the position. Even if you are friendly with the employee, they are not always the best candidate for the job. Finding the ideal candidate is always worthwhile, particularly if the position is essential to your company's further expansion and development.

4. Keep a conflict resolution process in place

If the boomerang employee returns to a more senior position, the situation is the same as if they had stayed with the company and been promoted. Address this change in status with your current employees immediately, and have the dispute resolution method ready.

5. Keep your doors open for high-performing employees

Keep the door open for high-performing employees to return when you do your next exit interview.

80% of workers claim their former companies did not make an effort to encourage their return.

6. Do things to hold onto boomerang employees

What can you do to make the boomerang employees want to stay with you forever? Let's start with culture. Build a place where people want to be and have every reason to stay.

A. Recognition goes a long way

Recognized employees are less inclined to look for new jobs. It matters to both new hires as well as boomerangs. At the same time, it's important to keep an eye on how a rehire's growth is progressing.

Vantage Circle’s Reward and Recognition program allow you to recognize employees individually instantly. Schedule a free demo to see how!

B. Spend more money

A "pay-to-stay bonus"—also known as a signing bonus that is paid out in installments—might be another tactic you might use to convince a boomerang to stick around.

C. Initiate 1-on-1 conversations

You can effectively document your interactions with the boomerang staff using 1-on-1 conversations. You can see through bottlenecks, launch coaching efforts, and recognize employee strengths by reviewing 1-on-1s from time to time.

Read our blog on: 9 Powerful Tips For Successful One on One Meetings

D. Roll out an employee survey

By using employee surveys, you can better comprehend the opinions of returning employees as well as the feedback they receive from others. It can help you comprehend how your employees feel regarding their workplace, their worries, and challenges.

6. Follow up with them.

Ensure the issue has been resolved if the person first left for a particular reason to prevent losing them again. Finally, make sure to routinely check in on returning employees to see how they are coping.

Frequently Asked Questions About Boomerang Employees (FAQs)

1. What are three most important interview questions for boomerang employees?

A. Here are the three most important questions for boomerang employees?

  • What was your reason for leaving?
  • Why do you want to return to this company?
  • What have you been doing since you left?

B. How to optimize the rehiring process for boomerang employees?

A. Optimize the rehiring process for boomerang employees by:

  • maintaining positive relationships,
  • creating a supportive culture,
  • conducting exit interviews,
  • keeping track of high-performing employees,
  • developing a boomerang hiring policy,
  • maintaining an updated talent pool,
  • streamlining the rehiring process,
  • offering incentives and benefits,
  • conducting re-onboarding, and
  • continuously evaluating and learning from the process.

C. What is the boomerang effect on HR?

A. The boomerang effect on HR, in which former employees return to work, has both positive and negative consequences. The talent pool is enriched, and retention rates are raised. However, it might lead to issues with perceived loyalty, old grievances, and a lack of wide-ranging new ideas. Balancing familiarity and new talent is crucial for optimizing the boomerang effect in HR.

This article is written by Susmita Sarma, a digital marketer at Vantage Circle. She was involved with media relations before shifting her interest to research and creative writing. Apart from being a classical music buff, she keeps a keen interest in anchoring and cooking. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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