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One Way to Fight The Great Resignation? Attract Boomerang Employees

One Way to Fight The Great Resignation? Attract Boomerang Employees

Targeting rehires and reaching out to your network of former employees might be the tactic to fight the influx of resignations and the secret to employee retention.

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HR professionals should look to boomerang employees as a potential for rehiring during The Great Resignation

Would you hire a former employee? Given the current hiring climate, many companies are doing just that.  

Today, with the landscape of The Great Resignation, Forbes found that most hiring managers said that they are more open to hiring a boomerang employee than in the past.

They would even give hiring preference to former employees who left in good standing as they are more likely to be higher performers than new hires.

There are a myriad of benefits in hiring a boomerang employee, from onboarding to employee experience. Read below on recruiting a former hire back.

What Is a Boomerang Employee?

A boomerang employee is someone who returns to a previous employer to be rehired. They can be someone who left for another position, was laid off or terminated, or simply left the workforce altogether.

Boomerang employees leave their positions for a variety of reasons, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased this phenomenon. Some of the most common include:

  • The pandemic
  • A life event, such as having a child or relocating
  • Educational pursuits
  • A better or higher-paying opportunity
  • Retirement
  • Position was eliminated
  • Changed careers
  • A layoff

The Benefits of Boomerang Employees

Boomerang employees can be a real boon for your organization.

First, they can save you time by recruiting alumni who are already familiar with the job, the people, and the company overall. Ex-employees also need less time to onboard and get up to speed in their role. By nature of their familiarity, they’re easier to integrate into your company culture and its people.

An expedited hiring timeline can also save your company a significant amount of money by cutting down the cost of recruiting, the cost of the job not being filled, and the cost of the replacement’s onboarding and learning curve. These hires will also likely:

  • Be knowledgeable of the position, expectations, and duties
  • Have a previous attachment to the company that could mean greater loyalty
  • Time away from the organization allows them to bring fresh perspective and insider knowledge
  • Fit into the company culture with less adjustment
  • Return with more experience, perspective, and new skills

Boomerang-ing Also Benefits Workers

Of course, employees are more likely to return to a former employer if they left on good terms.

Usually, boomerang employees only left in the first place due to unexpected circumstances, such as the pandemic.

It’s unlikely an employee would return if they left because they were dissatisfied with the organization or their prior work experience entirely.

But just as the pandemic has compelled many people to reassess their lives and work values, people who changed jobs before and during COVID might realize they miss the experiences and opportunities a former employer provided them.

Some workers might be dissatisfied with how a new employer treated employees during the pandemic. Others might have gotten swept up in the Great Resignation.

All of these scenarios can make the case for returning to a former company all the more appealing.

Plus, if the employer is adding a new layer of flexibility, such as the ability to work from anywhere, it can widen the pool of alumni who might be willing to go back.

Remember, modern workplace trends that put people first in your organization tends to re-attract former hires and retain current employees.

A boomerang employee might also be in the position to negotiate higher pay or a promotion. After all, a top reason why people change jobs is in order to secure higher pay and going back to an old job provides the same opportunity to ask for more.

With the way things are going, the rise of boomerang employees could last for the next five years, Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who coined the term “Great Resignation,” recently told Wired.

Boomeranging back to an ex-boss doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. As long as this resignation wave goes on, organizations will likely continue to look at boomerang employment more favorably.

How to Attract Boomerang Employees

A recent Wall Street Journal article cites data from Workhuman client LinkedIn, showing that the number of boomerang workers has increased in companies using its platform this year.

Boomerangs accounted for 4.5% of all new hires among companies on the professional networking website in 2021, up from 3.9% over the same period in 2019. In fact, LinkedIn itself jumped on the boomerang bandwagon this year, hiring twice as many former employees compared to 2019.

So what step can you take to attract your previous employees?

Create an alumni-focused recruiting program

One of the key objectives of an alumni engagement program is to keep former employees informed about career opportunities and make it easy for them to apply for jobs.

The alumni portal should feature a job-search engine that presents alums with job opportunities that match their experience, skills, and interests (which alums keep up to date in their profiles).

Stay in touch with alums about career opportunities by email and through social media, including your company page on LinkedIn.

Managers with positive relationships with former team members, should consider hiring boomerang employees from their network too.

And alums should also be able to refer friends for jobs through the portal.

And finally, target specific segments of the alumni base through programs which provide opportunities to rejoin.

Tailor onboarding to the returning employee’s circumstances

Typically,  boomerang employees need onboarding processes that differ from those designed for new employees. For one thing, managers tend to assume that boomerangs are more familiar with their new role and the organization than was usually the case.

The organization and its people can change significantly, even if the returning employee has only been away for a relatively brief time. So it's important to train managers to adjust their onboarding of returning employees according to certain key factors, including:

  1. Length of time away from the company
  2. How different their new role is when compared to the position the boomerang previously held
  3. Differences in organizational structure compared to their previous stint
  4. How much — or little — of the boomerang’s previous internal network of peers, internal customers, and cross-team collaborators is still in place.
Rehiring former employees is one way many organizations are combatting The Great Resignation and is a big benefit to teams.

What to Ask a Boomerang Applicant

Naturally, the hiring process for a boomerang employee is going to be a bit different. You’ll want to ask questions to help you understand their needs and motivations. Here are some insightful interview questions to help you get the insight you need:

  • Can you describe the skill set and experience you’ve gained since leaving the company?
  • What made you want to return to our company?
  • Do you have any concerns or issues relating to the company or former colleagues?
  • What have you been doing since you left?
  • If there is an exit interview on file, review the feedback there and see if there are any topics worth addressing from the employer or employee side.

Remember, the goal is to engage in a healthy conversation that leads to better understanding.

This approach can help everyone involved gain the perspective required to make good decisions.

While you should make these decisions on a case-by-case basis, it is a good idea to be open to rehiring employees. The happiest workers are those who know they can pursue professional development without fear of burning bridges.

Learn more about employee retention techniques from our resource guides

Tips for Onboarding a Boomerang Employee

You’ve said yes! After weighing the good and bad, you’ve made the employee an offer, and they’ve accepted it. Now, it’s time to bring them up to speed and help them become productive as soon as possible.

To do this, you may want to make some adjustments to your usual onboarding process.

Don’t Skip the Standard Orientation

You’ve hired a returning employee and are eager to get them going so they can be productive. That’s understandable, but no employee should skip the orientation process. There are simply too many essential steps that happen during the first few days of employment to make this optional.

For example, even if you still have their previous employment documents, those may no longer be valid. In addition, there may be new training, policy documents, and acknowledgments to sign.

At worst, the orientation will be a bit of a refresher. Most likely, the employee will pick up some valuable new information.

Consider Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is a great way to onboard a boomerang employee. When they shadow another team member for a day or two, they get to witness any system or procedural changes before they begin working on their own. This approach also allows them to connect or reconnect with a team member.

Even returning managers can benefit from shadowing one of the people they’ll be supervising. This mirroring will reorient them to daily operations and help them find their bearings while building important empathy and team spirit.

Create a Professional Development Plan

You’ve rehired a great employee and don’t want to lose them again. It’s a great idea to create a plan for their future growth and development at your company.

Work with them to find out what their goals are, the work that interests them, and skills they’d like to develop.

Manage the Employee Experience

As with any employee journey, their level of employee engagement is key. Happy employees foster relationships with their teammates and their organization. This boosts productivity, creativity, and profits over time.

Don't stop the wooing once hiring is complete - it's important to consistently court your employees, especially returnees,  so they feel valued, inspired, and happy to come back.


If you're looking for other employee engagement ideas as you grow employee retention, let us know! We'd love to hear from you.

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One Way to Fight The Great Resignation? Attract Boomerang Employees
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