Including boomerang employees in your recruiting strategy

The number of boomerang employees (employees who return to their former employer after leaving) is growing. Faced with the harsh reality of skills shortages, 76% of HR professionals are more and more inclined to hiring boomerang employees (The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study, 2018). How much added value can boomerang employees bring to your company, and what’s the best way to integrate them into your hiring strategy?

Boomerang employees: What’s all the fuss about?

For many employees, switching jobs on a regular basis is an integral part of any professional career. For some, changes in their career journey may very well involve returning to work for one of their former employers. These professionals are called “boomerang employees” and are very precious for companies because they’re already familiar with the company’s culture.

Who are these boomerang employees?

According to an American study (The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study, 2018), 15% of the workforce has boomeranged back to a former employer after leaving. These former recruits can turn out to be a precious source of candidates. Provided they left the company on good terms, chances are they’ll be open to coming back.

Reasons for leaving in the first place often encompass more than one factor

  • Accepted a better position
  • Wanted to upskill
  • Took advantage of quitting “temporarily” to come back on a better salary
  • Followed their partner, moved abroad, took a break

There isn’t really a standard type of boomerang employee, but one thing they do usually have in common is they initially leave their company on good terms, undertake a smooth career transition, and maintain regular contact with the old company.

Is recruiting a former employee really an asset for the company?

Is it a good idea to recruit boomerang employees? Can an employee who’s already left once become a valuable recruit for the company? Boomerang employees as potential candidates certainly shouldn’t be set aside. Why?

In some cases, they’re even more motivated to come back than first-time candidates. They’ve already had the chance of working in the company’s work environment and know the teams, so they have a good idea of what to expect. They’re also familiar with the company’s internal career management policy. Plus, during their intermission, they will have acquired new skills and experience that can benefit the company’s operations.

Boomerang employees can also be a source of inspiration for next generations, passing on their experience and know-how to younger recruits. Former colleagues can also experience a motivation boost in working with the former employee again.

From a purely procedural point of view, recruiting a familiar employee can simplify:

  • The hiring process: shorter and therefore potentially cheaper?
  • The trial period: can be shortened or even cleared altogether?

Although the margin of error may seem small because you already know your “candidate”, this shouldn’t be a reason for overlooking information such as why the employee left the company in the first place as well as any major stumbling blocks to the new recruitment process (disciplinary action, serious misconduct, etc). And you’ll also need to check that the vacant position does indeed match the candidate’s skills and aspirations (to prevent yet another departure).

What’s in it for employees returning to their former employer?

While the benefits for the company seem quite clear-cut, can the same be said for returning employees?

As a general rule, when an employee accepts (or requests) to return to their former employer, they’ll quickly be in a position to perform expected tasks, and engagement and motivation levels are heightened. Employees who return to “familiar territory” enjoy easier onboarding, straightforward interactions with management, and quicker attachment to the company.

According to a study (Workplace Trends), 33% of HR professionals and 38% of managers said that familiarity with company culture represents a major advantage when it comes to hiring former employees.

Recruiting boomerang employees also positively impacts the company’s employer brand. Involving them in the company’s recruiting strategy points to a good deal of open-mindedness, as does the act of setting up communities of alumni employees.

Looking to establish and nurture durable relationships with your talent pool? Explore the module

What’s the best way to recruit former employees?

Boomerang hiring can turn out to be a complex operation unless a number of adjustments are made:

  • Manage employee departures with an objective mindset
  • Update the company’s recruiting policy to include the rehiring of former employees
  • Stay in touch with former employees

Something we forget to factor into the question is that returning employees might not exactly be to the liking of some current employees, especially those who may also have applied for the position. Some may feel undervalued – a sentiment that can potentially fuel internal disputes. Here are our 3 top tips for smoothly including boomerang employees as options for your future hires.

Enhance the offboarding experience

An employee’s last day with your company is just as important as their first. When an employee leaves on good terms, they feel the reasons for their departure have been understood, they are more likely to stay in touch with former colleagues and potentially come back one day under different circumstances should a relevant opportunity arise.

This is why offboarding is such a crucial aspect of human resources management that mustn’t be overlooked. It should be optimised. How? Offer career management tips, simplify offboarding procedures, provide constructive feedback on the termination of your collaboration, stay in touch through social media, and stay up to date with their career journey by meeting up for a coffee or lunch from time to time. While former employees are generally nice people, they’re often an excellent source for referrals.

Stay in touch with former employees

It might sound insignificant, but if you haven’t yet set up a dedicated process to stay in touch, it’s easy to avoid losing contact.

Looking to establish and nurture durable relationships with your talent pool? Explore the module

Here a few useful tips:

Maintain a database of lists of people who have worked for you in the past. This will help you structure your data and stay in touch with former employees.

You might want to call them or send them a text message from time to time to see how they’re doing. Show genuine interest in their career journey, and let them know they’ll always be welcome back if they choose to work for the company again.

If former employees are up for joining your team again, make sure your recruiting and hiring process is as seamless as possible to make sure you set off in the best conditions.

Engage your pool of boomerang employees

Parting on good terms and staying in touch are certainly offboarding fundamentals. But you can go the extra mile by implementing a special communication plan aimed at former employees. Keep them in the loop about internal opportunities, but not systematically. Make sure the vacancies you send them are targeted and personalised. This will keep your pool of boomerang employees engaged.

You can even go so far as to create your own alumni community, and produce dedicated content and share suitable events or information. It’s not only about maintaining your relationship, it’s about nurturing it. And that’s exactly what CleverConnect aims to offer through a platform designed to engage former employees with ambassador roles to their respective employer brands.

Looking to establish and nurture durable relationships with your talent pool? Explore the module
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