When a former employee returns to their old job – is this a rare exception to the rule or a growing occurrence?
You might be surprised to learn that ‘boomerang hires’ – or re-hires – happen frequently. In fact, progressive organisations are recognising the value in attracting former employees back to their offices as they have the potential to bring with them developed skills, greater motivation and higher engagement levels.
What is boomerang hiring?
A boomerang hire is the term for anyone who has left an organisation and then is re-hired, be that in the same role or a different position.
“An employee will have a unique set of circumstances around why they left and their reasons for wanting to return. However, I find that the majority of the time, people return to an organisation because they’ve realised the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Either that, or the expectations of their new role or workplace culture didn’t really align,” explains Pavi.
Pros and cons of a boomerang hire
Pavi says despite the negative connotations that can be associated with the term ‘boomerang hire’, there are significant benefits for companies.
“I think there might be more benefits than negatives if it’s done the right way,” she says. Pavi’s list of boomerang hiring pros and cons include:
- You already know the individual – you know what their talents are, and what to expect from their quality of work.
- Onboarding time and associated costs are significantly reduced because the returning employee is already familiar with your processes.
- Culture-wise, they are more likely to adapt to the team environment than someone unfamiliar to the organisation.
- They want to come back to your company for a reason, which often means they are motivated to thrive in their role.
- Re-hired employees can also bring with them new perspectives from their time with other companies. With new skills and fresh eyes, they can be a huge boost to the company.
- If they’ve picked up new skills, there may be an expectation of higher pay or a better job title. This can potentially lead to resentment among team members or future performance issues.
- Depending on how long ago they left, their expectations for the company may not match up with how the organisational structure has changed. This can make assimilation difficult.
- Co-workers may feel undervalued if a former employee is brought back into a higher position, especially if those team members had to take on additional responsibilities when the re-hire left.
Hiring managers and HR departments need to recognise that, despite the inherent value they can bring to your organisation, it’s not always easy to reintegrate a former employee. Understanding these challenges before they become a problem is key to successful assimilation.
“One of the biggest challenges is the returning employee’s expectations of the company and how long it’s been since they left,” Pavi says.
“Some re-hires happen in a short space of time, in which case very little is likely to have changed from an organisational structure perspective, but I’ve known people that have come back to a company two or three years later. Often, a lot has changed in that time. If the re-hire is seeking familiarity, that can be a problem.”
Before welcoming former employees back into the fold it’s crucial you do your due diligence. Familiarise yourself with how the re-hire performed prior to leaving, and the reasons why they left in the first place. Also consider what their motivations are for their return, as well as the new capabilities they can bring into their position.
“Investigate the ‘why’,” Pavi says. “Don’t just go off your memory. Actually talk to the hiring manager, talk to their previous superiors and talk to their former team members as well, because everybody will have a different perception of them and the reason for why they left.”
Giving your people a reason to stay
As Pavi explains, all industries have experienced major employee movement over the past few years and COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a contributor. “We’ve noticed a lot more talk about what makes a valuable employee, and a lot of that has surfaced because of how they’ve reacted to COVID, as well as how they’ve tackled the challenges the pandemic has presented.”
But arguably the biggest factor for the rise in boomerang hiring has been the ongoing talent shortage in Australia.
“Even if you lose talent to another company right now, it’s about making sure you’ve set up your company culture in such a way that you are still able to support those people, and welcome them warmly, should they return.”