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The rise of the boomerang employee

Kerry Simmons Article 3 mins

Boomerang employees, comeback kids, returners - call them what you will but they’re on the rise.  Defined as “employees that have left an organisation for whatever reason and then rejoined the same organisation at a later date” they’re a talent pool that organisations facing a skills and talent gap cannot ignore.

According to a study by Kronos which surveyed more than 1,800 HR professionals, 76% say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past and nearly 40% of employees said they would consider going back to a company where they previously worked. In the past five years, 85% of HR professionals say they have received job applications from former employees, and 40% say their organisation hired about half of those former employees who applied.

Boomerang benefits

Perhaps the most famous boomerang of all is Steve Jobs, rehired 12 years after being let go from Apple. Whilst not every employee will achieve the heights and success of Jobs, there’s no doubt that boomeranging back into the company brings benefits to the employer and employee alike - the most obvious one being the reduction of risk. Yes, things may well have changed during the time of separation but there’s still some removal of the fear of the unknown for both sides. The speed at which the employee is likely to be up and running at full productivity is likely to be faster. According to an article by Harvard Business Review called “Cultivating Ex-Employees”, between the lower effort needed to recruit and train ex-employees and their shorter ramp-up time to full productivity, companies can cut costs by up to 50% per hire by employing a boomerang over a typical applicant. There’s also no doubt that the impact on your employer brand is a positive one - it can only reflect well on a company when an employee who has experienced work with other companies makes the choice to apply back to a former organisation. 

Consciously uncoupling

There are as many reasons as to why employees leave a company as there are employees.  Everyone has their own story; sometimes it is their decision to leave, sometimes their role was made redundant and the decision was not initially theirs. Whatever the reason, an employee is only going to consider rejoining an organisation if they leave on good terms.  Whilst consciously uncoupling may be a phrase made famous by Hollywood celebrities, the concept behind it brings benefits to all when considered in the context of a relationship ending between an employer and an employee.

Whilst trust and support are necessary throughout the whole of the employee’s time at a company, this takes on a new level of importance at the point of departure. Years of commitment, engagement, trust and loyalty can be broken in just a matter of hours if redundancy or resignations are handled badly. 

All too often, employees that leave to take up new opportunities are ignored or made to feel guilty and disloyal. While it’s okay to express regret when an employee resigns, managers should also congratulate them and acknowledge the employee’s new career opportunity. And if employees are not leaving of their own volition, make sure they know why they are being let go and, when possible, try to point them in the direction of other opportunities within the same organisation.  If this is not an option, provide career transition and outplacement services well before their last day to give them the best chance of a landing new job as soon as possible. If departing employees feel supported by their former employer and get a new role quickly, they are less resentful and more likely to come back when needed. Some industry research suggests that those employees whose roles have been made redundant are twice as likely to consider returning to a former employer if they had been supported with an outplacement programme than those that hadn’t. 

With talent pools drying up and skill shortages at an all time low and predicted to become worse as Brexit comes closer to reality,  encouraging boomerang employees to return to the fold could bring multiple benefits.



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