Many companies have lost good employees over the past few years amidst the Great Resignation/Reshuffle. But that doesn’t mean they are gone forever. As the pandemic eases and former workers’ situations change, many may be looking to return.
Former employees accounted for 4.5 percent of all new hires among companies in 2021, up from 3.9 percent in 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal. This trend of hiring boomerang employees may last for up to the next five years, according to Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University (and the person who coined the term “Great Resignation”).
What are Boomerang Employees?
Boomerang employees are former employees who are rehired — a situation sometimes referred to as “returnship.” In the past, some companies had rules against former workers returning, but there are several good reasons why companies should take advantage of interest from these attractive potential candidates.
Benefits of Boomerang Employees
One of the biggest advantages of boomerang employees is familiarity, for both parties. Employers already know the talents, capabilities and personality of the candidate. Candidates already know the organization, its culture, at least some of their colleagues and how things work. And they have skills and knowledge to contribute right away. This means the candidate can often hit the ground running without the extensive onboarding that new hires require.
Additional benefits of boomerang employees:
- They have made a deliberate decision to come back
- Many have acquired new experiences and skills since they left
- They’re more likely to be satisfied with and committed to the organization
- They cost less to recruit and onboard
This means that returning employees are often some of the most committed and motivated people you can hope to hire.
“These returning employees already know the organization’s ins, outs, and nuances, and understand the employer’s expectations and company culture,” said Ben Laker, professor of leadership at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School. The fact that people like your organization so much that they want to work for you again is also a great boost to your employer brand.
How to Encourage Boomerang Employee Returnship
The practice of rehiring boomerang employees isn’t exactly new, but this has often arisen spontaneously without much overt support from employers. But companies that recognize the importance of this talent pool can take steps to encourage the right people to return in the right circumstances.
1. Foster Amicable Off-ramps
Employees who leave because they (or the employer) are unhappy are unlikely to return. But for the ones you hate to lose, parting should be amicable. Whether this is an employee leaving for another opportunity, perhaps a female employee deciding to stay home with children, employers should make it clear that they support the person in their new endeavors — and they would be welcomed back in the future, if they change their minds.
2. Make the Most of Mentoring
Companies with formal mentoring programs realize multiple benefits in areas including talent retention and engagement. Mentoring also provides companies the opportunity to showcase career development opportunities within the organization. Participants have a much better idea of where they could go with their company, something that is an important factor in the decisions to return and grow.
3. Create a Culture of Inclusion
Creating a culture that values and practices diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a must for companies today. When employees feel included and valued, they are more likely to stay in the first place. However, if they leave, they know they can come back to a place where they feel belonging and support.
4. Keep in Touch
When a worker leaves, that shouldn’t be the last they hear from their former employer. Employers can stay in touch in a variety of ways, including reaching out for post-departure check-ins and engaging with former employees via social networks or company alumni groups. This helps potential boomerangs stay in the loop of goings-on at the organization — and lets them know they are still valued.
In a difficult labor market, boomerang employees will continue to be a valuable resource for organizations. Keeping that in mind can help companies create strategies that let employees know that the door is open to return — even before they leave.