A boomerang employee is someone who has left their employment at an organization, but returns and is rehired by the same employer at a later date. The rehiring can happen months or years after the employee leaves—although the term is most commonly associated with employees that return to a place of work where there are colleagues that are still familiar with them.

In some cases, boomerang employees leave and return regularly. For example, an employee who attends school full-time may return to a workplace and be rehired each year after the school year ends.

Why do people boomerang?

Attitudes to careers and job security are changing. Where it would previously have been seen as a lack of loyalty to leave a company—even if the employee left on good terms—“job-hopping” is a much more acceptable practice, particularly amongst employees from younger generations.

A survey of HR professionals found that 76% said they are more open to the idea of re-hiring a former employee. This, along with it being far less common for workplaces to have policies against rehiring, opens the door for employees who want to return. 

Why employees are leaving their jobs

There are many reasons why people may leave a workplace. Some of the most common reasons include personal and family circumstances, undertaking studies or a desire to progress, or even change careers.

What brings people back to their former workplaces?

When it comes to returning to work for a previous employer, the former employee may regret their decision to leave—or the employee’s circumstances may have changed since they decided to change roles. Perhaps they’ve completed the studies that they left to undertake, or the family circumstances that they left to focus on may be resolved. 

A former employer is also a known entity, and previous employees may be looking to return to the comfort of knowing a workplace well. They may have stayed in touch with former co-workers and employers and may have missed the team dynamics or company culture of that place of work.

What are the benefits of rehiring former employees?

The big benefit of rehiring boomerang employees is that they’re familiar. You likely already know their skills, strengths, performance, and how they fit into your workplace and culture. They may not need as much training or onboarding as other external hires, making them potentially less risky and less costly to employ in comparison.

As well as the benefit of familiarity, a former employee can bring new perspectives and skills to a job. Whether they’ve worked at another company, have gone to school, or have had other life and professional experiences since leaving your organization, you may be getting the benefit of additional skills in an employee you already know.

There is research to support the potential benefits of re-employing former workers. Studies have shown that rehired employees are more committed and satisfied and also more productive when compared with new hires. They also exhibit better job performance when compared with their peers.

What are the drawbacks?

While there are benefits to rehiring a worker, there can be disadvantages, too. There’s usually a good reason why someone left the company, and some of these factors may be still present in the workplace. If an employee didn’t fit in well with the company culture or did not have a good working relationship with colleagues, rehiring can introduce old problems and even tensions within the team.

In addition, companies and their needs change. If a previous employee was a good match before but isn’t a good fit currently, there is the risk they may leave again.

Should you rehire?

When deciding whether to rehire a former employee, it’s important to carefully consider the reasons that they left and what’s changed since. Are there any issues with the employee that need to be addressed before hiring? Is there any old baggage that the hire could reintroduce to the team?

The interview stage offers an important opportunity to address why the employee is returning and what they are bringing to the table. 

  • Do their needs as an employee fit the needs of the company? 
  • Can they clearly explain why they are looking to return? 
  • What new skills and perspectives can they bring to their new role in the company? 
  • What expectations do they have about their role and salary, is this in alignment with what the company can offer? 
  • What are their plans for the future, and is it likely they will leave again? 

Ascertaining the answers to questions like these from a boomerang employee can help you to determine whether rehiring makes sense and whether they’re the best fit for the current role, rather than being the simpler hire. Even if you know what to expect from a former worker, it doesn’t always mean they are the best option for a current position.

How to ensure that rehiring a boomerang employee is successful

If you decide that rehiring a previous employee is a good idea, you can increase your chances of a successful rehire by communicating well and discussing expectations early. Be open about any changes to the company culture or structure, and what the new role entails if it has developed since the employee left.

Don’t skip the onboarding process

While onboarding for a previous employee may not need to be as thorough as for a new hire, don’t skip it entirely. Tailor it to the boomerang employee and address any changes to the company, processes, or people—to help them transition back into the workforce as smoothly as possible.

With these few extra steps, you can be confident that your new rehire will be poised to succeed in their new role.  

Conclusion

A boomerang employee can be someone who is primed to enter your culture and workplace easily—potentially with fresh skills and experience too. As long as you remember to offer appropriate training and onboarding—and consider why the employee left in the first place—rehiring someone that has previously worked for your organization can be a win-win situation for both the business and the boomerang employee.