Boomerang Employees: Navigating Returns and Retention

Discover boomerang employees and how to manage their return! Explore strategies for effective management and preventing new recruits from boomeranging back!

In the dynamic realm of talent acquisition and retention over the past few years, a notable trend has emerged – the rise of boomerang employees. These individuals, having once departed a company, return later, ready to contribute anew. But what fuels this phenomenon, and how can employers harness its potential while addressing potential pitfalls?

A boomerang employee refers to an individual who departs a company for various reasons, only to rejoin the organisation as a rehired employee at a later stage. This phenomenon underscores the fluidity of today’s workforce, where career trajectories often involve departures and returns. This presents a major opportunity but can also present a major risk in terms of retention and new hires ‘boomeranging’ back. 

Recent data from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph sheds light on the industries most inclined towards rehiring former employees. Sectors such as government administration, oil, gas, mining, and financial services demonstrate a pronounced propensity for welcoming back former staff. However, some industries, exhibit a decline in rehiring rates, signalling a need to prioritise retention and acknowledge the value of experience.

According to a 2020 study in the Academy of Management journal one of the key benefits for employers in hiring returning workers is that they “possess intimate prior experience in the organisation’s social system”. This could be one of the reasons why these sectors are seeing significant growth of boomerang employees due to the prior knowledge required.

Studies indicate that the majority of boomerang employees return to their former employers within 13 months of departure, with a significant spike observed around the one-year mark. This timing suggests a critical window for organisations to engage potential boomerangs and facilitate their return seamlessly.

An international study by the Harvard Business Review found that boomerang employees are also more likely to be managers than non-managers, this could be due to organisations trying to attract former employees to return by offering them a higher salary with management responsibilities.According to research by People Management “2/5 of managers are reluctant to hire boomerang employees” but Hooray’s Recruitment expert, Founder and Managing Director, Richard Arthur challenges employers’ reluctance,

Richard Arthur, Recruitment expert and Managing Director of Hooray Recruitment, Cheltenham.

“The beauty about boomerang employees is that they are already familiar with the business and can hit the ground running saving businesses time and money.”

Embracing boomerang employees presents several advantages, including streamlined onboarding processes, cultural alignment, and heightened retention rates. However, the potential for reintroducing past conflicts and the need for readjustment to organisational changes remain important to consider.

Employers can capitalise on the boomerang trend by fostering lasting relationships with departing employees and maintaining open lines of communication. Creating an inclusive environment where employees feel valued and respected can encourage potential boomerangs to consider returning.

As Sir Richard Branson aptly says;

“Train employees well enough so they can leave but treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

While this statement focuses on training, its underlying message extends to cultivating a supportive environment. Implementing an open-door policy that fosters employee comfort can play a pivotal role in making them feel genuinely welcomed back into the fold.

Despite reservations among some managers, welcoming back boomerang employees can prove highly beneficial. Former employees bring intimate knowledge of the organisation’s social dynamics and require minimal onboarding, contributing to increased retention and morale.

Furthermore, Boomerang employees often bring back fresh perspectives and industry insights acquired during their time away. This new knowledge can inspire innovation and drive growth within the organisation. Additionally, they may have expanded their professional networks, which can lead to new business opportunities and revenue streams. In essence, welcoming back boomerang employees not only reunites familiar faces but also injects new ideas and potential clients into the company.

Moreover, the average employee tenure has remained unchanged over the past 40 years with the average being approximately 5 years, offering lots of opportunities for individuals to explore new paths before potentially returning to former employers. The modern-day employees, want the freedom and flexibility to explore other options without burning bridges.

Employees may depart for various reasons, including career advancement, personal exploration, or life events. However, the allure of financial benefits, company growth, and a sense of belonging often prompt their ‘boomerang’ return. Realising that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, many employees find comfort and fulfilment in returning to familiar environments. In addition, Harvard Business Review findings showed that “the more workers maintained strong social ties to their former colleague the more likely they were to return”. 

To prevent the departure of valuable talent and foster a culture of inclusivity, employers must prioritise retention efforts. Aligning recruitment promises with employee experiences, investing in comprehensive onboarding programs, and proactively addressing employee needs are crucial steps in this endeavour. By nurturing a supportive environment where employees feel valued and empowered, organisations can mitigate the risk of losing talent to competitors.

Ready to optimise your recruitment and retention strategies? Whether you’re navigating the return of boomerang employees or aiming to prevent new hires from boomeranging back, we’re here to assist you every step of the way. Get in touch with us today to explore how we can help elevate your hiring processes and drive sustained growth for your business

Stephen Beer, Our Professional Services Divisional Lead poses outside our Cheltenham office

Our expert Stephen Beer from the Professional Service Division, explains

“Some companies actively target their former employees – they invite them to follow their alumni LinkedIn page, send them information about events or company news all in the hope that one day they may boomerang back to the fold! So, if the new role works out to be demonstrably different to the one the candidate interviewed for, the desire to return to a safe environment may be too tempting”

Harvard Business Review also reports that ‘employees who felt betrayed by their new organisation were particularly likely to boomerang back to their old one’. Stephen advises;

“To help bridge this gap, alignment is needed with those recruiting and the managers and co-workers, who are most familiar with the job and what it actually entails. So that what they see is what they get – this should include the good and the bad. Candidates should have an opportunity to meet with a potential new peer to ask about how they settled in, challenges and how they were overcome. ‘Realistic’ job descriptions would be an effective method to reduce turnover and would help to defend against new recruits boomeranging back to a former employer, especially if they feel the goalposts have been moved. Also, an early 360 performance review or a ‘stay interview’ after a few months may be really effective and can help show any gaps between expectations or misalignments helping managers to address any concerns”.

Dan, Director and Recruitment expert at Hooray Recruitment.

Hooray’s Recruitment expert for our  Healthcare and Education division advice is making sure they are still engaged one year in. Dan says;

“Whilst getting the onboarding right is crucial, studies show a significant spike of people ‘jumping ship’ around the one-year mark making it a key period for employees. So, a good solution I would recommend would be to invest in engagement programmes targeted specifically at those entering their second year. So, by the end of the first year, it should be clear if performance is above, at or below expectations. Employers should consider offering a raise, promotion, or other development opportunities to those who are exceeding expectation or who show promise. This can be really effective, especially for top performers who may be more likely to have other options. Therefore, it might be worth investing in them in order to retain them rather than losing them after a year and all that investment in onboarding when they return to a previous employer”.

Finally, maintaining open lines of communication with departing employees is essential. By refraining from burning bridges and remaining receptive to potential boomerangs, employers can cultivate a culture of loyalty and mutual respect. In doing so, they position themselves to harness the full potential of boomerang employees and drive sustained growth and innovation.

In conclusion, the rise of boomerang employees reflects the evolving nature of today’s workforce. By understanding the motivations behind boomerang returns and implementing proactive retention strategies, employers can transform potential departures into opportunities for growth and collaboration. As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of talent management, embracing the boomerang effect may prove instrumental in shaping a resilient and dynamic workforce for the future.