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Boomerang Employees: 5 Ways To Ensure They Come Back Successfully

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In today’s candidate-driven job market, employers are looking to the past to fill today’s open roles.

Once considered disloyal because they quit for greener pastures, boomerang employees are now very attractive as hiring leaders struggle to fill job vacancies created by pandemic layoffs, the "Great Resignation/Reshuffle,” and increased production. Some boomerang employees may have retired early during the pandemic, but are now hankering for more to their days than golf and CNN. Finally, boomerangs may have been wrongly dismissed, or a change of leadership has softened the gaze of the new hiring leaders. Whatever the reason, boomerang employees are a growing segment of today’s candidate pool.


As unemployment drops to record-low levels and workers become more selective about their career goals and company mission, sometimes a familiar face is just who you need to see in a hard-to-fill role. It’s time to eliminate the loyalty issue and bring back some institutional knowledge.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Rehiring Boomerang Employees From An Employer’s Perspective?

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PROS:

  • Such workers bring industry and institutional knowledge and experience to the job, including the new skills and training they acquired while at another company.
  • Having experienced other workplaces, boomerangs may be more dedicated to and appreciative of their former employer than they were before.
  • In cases where clients followed boomerangs to their new companies, those clients may well follow the boomerang back.
  • Boomerangs can be a good fit when a company needs to fill a position quickly.
  • If they fit with the employee culture the first time, they will likely fit again.
  • Their work ethic and the quality of their work are known commodities.
  • They can typically hit the ground running. Not much training or onboarding is necessary which saves time and money.

CONS

  • It may cause a morale issue with current staff. Some co-workers resent the rehiring or think it’s unfair. Former teammates need to be part of the conversation before bringing back a past employee, especially if the candidate previously lacked leadership skills or a culture fit.
  • It can also give the impression that one way to get a promotion is to quit. In other words, work elsewhere and then come back for a bump in paygrade and title.
  • Workers might expect their previous years of service to count toward the amount of vacation time or paid time off they receive in their new go-round. Be sure to spell out what will happen in an offer letter, or better yet, have a “bridging policy” in your employee handbook.
  • A boomerang might struggle to learn new skills or form new relationships if the company has changed significantly since they left.
  • The candidate might now be coming back as a supervisor for their former peers which may cause resentment. Hiring leaders need to anticipate how employees will adapt to this change.
  • If the returning employee is retired, returning to work might affect their Social Security payments. They may need to limit their hours or earnings to minimize any tax consequences.
  • Check the terms of any previous severance package, pension plan, or union agreement that might limit the company’s ability to rehire a worker. In those cases, both parties may be able to waive or change the terms of the earlier deal.
  • Security clearance or other certifications may have expired. What is the cost and time involved in reinstating these?

Are You Struggling To Fill Open Roles? Could Boomerang Employees Be An Option For Your Organization?

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You likely have former employees’ contact information in your HRIS, but if not, you can try search engines like Trupeople.com or Zoominfo.com, or LinkedIn.com to track them down.

If you do reengage former employees like my clients from the marketing and financial services industries recently have done, be sure you do not skip steps in your typical hiring process as well as:

  • Be clear about what may have changed in the organization since their departure (leadership, reorganization, benefits, pay, technology).
  • Understand more fully why the boomerang left the first time. What was missing in their prior role?
  • Ask what is motivating them to return. Does that align with why you want to bring them back?
  • Ask whether the existing team wants them back.
  • Consider offering a signing bonus paid out in increments as another tool to show a boomerang you want them back to stay—sometimes called a “pay-to-stay bonus.”

Boomerang employees are on the rise; for the most part, it’s a good thing for employers. You can ensure the “sequel” is better than the original by utilizing a thorough rehiring process.

For more information on boomerang employees, please see the World At Work article “Familiar Faces” and listen to my podcast.

Like JoJo Siwa sings, “I’m a come back like a boomerang”—hiring leaders need to be ready.

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