3 reasons you should welcome 'boomerang employees'

Don't treat former employees like traitors - they could be valuable in the future.

by Phil Sheridan
Last Updated: 23 Sep 2016

The phenomenon of boomerang employees – when bosses re-hire former staff – is becoming increasingly common with many businesses from Apple to Reddit and more recently Manchester United reaping the benefits. The growing skills shortage for niche finance and technical roles means that it’s a strategy that is becoming more widely used by UK business leaders. In research with HR directors, we found that 83% would be more open to hiring boomerang employees than they were three years ago, while almost half (49%) said that they had already successfully re-hired former employees.

So what are the key benefits of re-hiring a boomerang employee?

1. They already know and understand your business and can therefore hit the ground running

Chances are you have already trained and coached a boomerang employee in the way your company operates as well as the working culture you maintain. Four-in-10 HR directors said that a ‘fit into our corporate culture’ was an important factor in welcoming erstwhile employees back. Furthermore, 36% of HR directors highlighted the benefits of reduced on-boarding costs as a factor influencing their decision to employ a boomerang employee, who will already know how the company operates and will not require a lengthy induction before adding value. However, their on-boarding should not be ignored as it’s an important way to keep employees up to date on the latest company procedures and processes.

2. They have picked up valuable experience elsewhere and senior people will have the right background for the role

It’s more than likely that your returning employee will have been working for another company in your sector, or at least within a similar role in a different sector. While employees may have left the business from a junior position, their experience in the wider job market may mean that they are ready to take on a more senior role, which is generally more difficult to fill – with the added benefit that they understand your business and have extra skills gained elsewhere.

3. They can help you address your specialist skills shortage

Rehiring former employees back into the organisation can help offset the current challenges companies face in the war for talent. You are already aware of an alumni of professionals out in the marketplace who you would trust to bring back into the business to take on a particular role.

Of course all of these benefits rely on helping employers to be ‘good leavers’ from the organisation and to retain a positive view of their experience with you. While the overall acceptance of boomerang employees has changed direction, there are still concerns by some. Indeed in recent research, 7% of HR Directors surveyed said they would not hire a boomerang employee.

Employees leave for a reason and there are often worries that boomerang employees return with the same issues about the company that they originally left with. Additionally, more often than not, a certain amount of trust is lost when an employee leaves the company. There is therefore a risk that boomerang employees have a stigma hanging over them that they might leave again, making for an unpleasant working environment.

However, as our research shows, many firms see value and potential cost savings in allowing employees to expand their experience and skills set outside their organisation, leaving the door open for them to return at a later date. As with any career move, potential boomerang employees need to consider resuming previous work relationships only if it feels like progress – there is no point returning to a previous company unless the role will contribute to personal and professional development. Those considering a return to a previous employer to think it through carefully.

Phil Sheridan is senior managing director of Robert Half UK


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