Boomerang: the rise in returning employees

‘Boomerang’ employees are those who leave a company and later return, usually within a year or two. We explore the motivations of boomerang employees and how they could add value to your business.

4 mins read
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12 Jul, 2024

​The upheaval of recent years has led many workers into making rash decisions about their lives, including their work. Now regretful at jumping ship or changing career, some are pining for their old jobs, with a growing number rejoining their former employers. 

According to our latest LinkedIn poll, 55% of 1,000+ respondents said they have hired a so-called boomerang employee and would do so again, with 26% saying they haven’t but would be open to it. Only five per cent of those who said they had rehired someone said they wouldn’t again, compared to 13% who said they never had and never would. 

A recent international survey by US company UKG found that 20% of the global workforce are those who have returned to a company.  

The changing world of work 

Over the last few years, the world of work has undergone significant changes. From the pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis, many people are leaving secure roles in search of higher pay or better benefits elsewhere, during these tough times. 

Similarly, businesses that faced financial difficulty, and had to let workers go, now face a talent shortage. Employers across the board are looking to expand their talent pool. One way to do this is by rehiring former employees. 

In the past, there were negative perceptions of people who left a company and returned. However, post-pandemic, we are seeing a culture shift where employees are prioritising roles that tick all their boxes. Job hopping has become more common as a result – which employers are becoming more accepting of – and if their previous company will provide their next opportunity, there is less hesitation among professionals to return. 

Most companies have seen rapid growth through adopting remote and hybrid working policies and greater wellbeing support for employees, which is leading workers who perhaps gave up those benefits to regret leaving for pastures new – a higher salary isn’t everything.  

Effective offboarding and employer branding 

Employers should offboard people with the mindset that they might one day return, to ensure they’re not burning any bridges.

An exit interview is crucial to offboarding in the right way – it’s an effective attraction and retention tool, which can help with assessing which aspects of the company, or role could be improved. Whether staff are unhappy with their salary or your management style, it’s important to find out why they are leaving, to ensure history doesn’t repeat and improvements can be made.

Those that take employees’ advice into consideration – even those who are leaving – prove they value employees’ opinions and are willing to adapt to their needs. Therefore, taking offboarding seriously works in favour of your employer brand. Employees who left solely for a higher salary, a change of scenery, or something else you couldn’t offer at the time, are highly likely to return when they see improvements have been made. 

Up-to-speed on day one 

Your most valuable asset could be someone you’ve already let go. For example, Steve Jobs left Apple, only to return 12 years later, when it was on the brink of collapse.

Hiring boomerang employees is a great way to find professionals who can hit the ground running. The returner already knows many of their colleagues, the company culture and ethos, and how to do their job – although not everyone returns to the same role. Therefore, there will potentially be less time and cost involved in training them before they can get stuck in. 

Most likely, you rehired someone because they were good at their job in the first place. But returners or ‘boomerangs’ also provide a fresh perspective and new ideas, having picked up new skills and knowledge during their time away. 

Rehiring the right way 

When rehiring, the main concern is that a professional will leave again. Employee retention strategies are key here, as is expectation management. 

Professionals tend to rejoin companies for a higher salary or position. This can cause resentment and jealousy, damaging company morale. However, ensuring each employee is treated fairly will prevent these negative dynamics from forming. Employers should not treat returners any better or worse than the rest of their team. 

Before you rehire someone, it’s important to give an honest overview of how the company has changed since they left and address any feedback from their exit interview. If you rehire someone having solved their issues from the first time, or at least shown an intention to improve, they will feel valued and have greater longevity in your company.

If you’re looking for the perfect professional or an outstanding opportunity, contact your nearest Reed office.

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