Boomerang Employees –Boom or Bust in Talent Shortage?

A boomerang employee is someone who leaves a company, works somewhere else for a while, and then comes back.  We see evidence of this in politics and sports in every-day life. It is now becoming a widely accepted part of the employment market.


For years it was commonplace for companies to have human resource policies that denied the return of former employees on a blanket basis, even if they left in good standing. Gone are the days of talent surplus as recruiting has never been more complicated or competitive. Thus, HR professionals are more accepting of returning employees.

Employees leave jobs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes personal lives require a change, some to experience a new industry, to jump into a start-up, take a promotion or gain additional skills in rapid progression. We spend our days talking to people who want to find a new job and most leave with an appreciation for their former employer and maintain relationships with coworkers long after they left.

I know right now you’re thinking it’s all about Millennials. Although Millennials are definitely a big part of the boomerang trend, it’s not just Millennials (50% surveyed would return to a former employee) but Gen Xers (33%) and Baby Boomers (33%) too.

Tricky, Tricky, Tricky.

Whether or not to rehire a former employee is tricky business. There are definite benefits but potentially disastrous ramifications as well.   Think through the positives and negatives of a returning employee. Don’t work through the process in a vacuum. I can’t stress this enough.

Benefit: Cost savings. Familiarity with company history, products, and processes. Training on new improvements, technology, and company practices will be expedited compared to new employees saving time and money. Additional cost savings may be found in the cost per hire of the recruitment itself.

Benefit: Known performance. Typically if a boomerang employee left a proven performer they will likely return as one. Performance with new employees is always unknown so betting on a boomerang may pay off.

Benefit: Specialized skills. Depending on the niche or industry of your company there can be a shortage of applicants that possess the specialized skills you require. Rehiring an old employee could save you the difficulty of headhunting for “purple squirrels” needed in a specialized industry.

Issue: Stuck. They may be stuck in the past, clinging to old ways and thought patterns.  Think of the old saying “Can’t teach an old dog new trick”. Your organization likely has moved forward during the time they were away. The question is have they?

Issue: Missed opportunity. Hiring a former employee may be an easy fix to a problem but is it the best solution available? Perhaps there is a more highly qualified applicant that you will miss without the benefit of a full recruitment.

Issue: Friction. Do you know how your team feels? Really feels?

Your former employee may have seemed like the perfect team player from outside the team, but there could have been issues behind the scenes your team never brought to your attention.

Having friends at work increases employee commitment, employee engagement and they are less likely to jump ship, a report from Globoforce shows. In fact, 89 percent of employees surveyed said their relationships with their co-workers are important to their quality of life.

Include your team in the decision to rehire a boomerang employee. Allow them to express their opinion, share concerns and listen. Dysfunction or discord can throw your team off production or worse, create additional openings.


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