Boomerang employees and their impact on business

A quick summary:

  • What is a boomerang employee?
  • Boomerang employees pros and cons
  • Summary of positives of boomerang employees
  • Summary of negatives of boomerang employees
  • What will my team think about rehiring former employees?
  • Famous boomerang employees
  • Improve wellbeing and increase retention with Heka

Employees come and go, it’s nothing personal. At least not always! In the current recruiting climate of a post-covid world, more companies are looking to rehire former employees, otherwise known as boomerang employees.

With the Great Resignation and the war for talent hindering recruiter hiring efforts, HR departments have begun to explore different ways of sourcing the very best talent in the form of boomerang employees.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, employee retention rates plummeted. Since then, it has been no easy job retaining employees for some companies. Prompting the question could boomerang employees be a godsend for your employee retention strategies?

If you read this and cringed, that’s completely understandable. It’s a bit of a grey area after all. Yet, this recruitment strategy is proving to be successful, and believe it or not, it can have its benefits.

We’ve made an effort to establish each side of the story - the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to hiring former employees. Who knows, though?

You might read this and make a swift phone call to a previous colleague. It could be the start (or the rekindling) of something brilliant for your company!

We’ll start by understanding what boomerang employees are, before diving into both the pros and cons of rehiring former employees. We’ll then talk about how the news or rearrival of past employees could affect your current team.

Finally, we’ll end by talking about a couple of famous boomerang employees and wrap things up with our conclusive thoughts on the matter.

An employee working at a desk
What is a boomerang employee?

What is a boomerang employee?

By definition, and to put it simply, boomerang employees are workers who return to a previous employer for one reason or another. Whether it’s due to finding a new role, being made redundant, or even due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred on boomerang employees in the past couple of years. Many employers had to reduce working hours, pay and the size of their workforce altogether to survive, meaning a lot of employees left, only to return to a more stable environment.

Other reasons for boomerang employees typically include those entering retirement and those having children. Generally, boomerang employees can leave for any reason, what makes them boomerang employees is the fact that they return.

Of course, a lot of employees are met with spite when they hand in their notice, and for these people, they couldn’t think of anything worse than returning to a previous employer.

However, the statistics don’t lie! In 2016, our survey in the US found that 40% of respondents would be happy to return to a previous job.

According to an article published in Forbes, boomerang employees represent an “untapped pool of candidates”. Something many organisations may have to consider as struggles to fill positions continue from 2022 into 2023.

Now that we understand exactly what being a boomerang employee means, what are some of the employee boomerang benefits? How could it positively or negatively impact your company? Let’s get into that now.

Boomerang employees pros and cons

We’re going to start with the positives of boomerang employees. You may be surprised to hear of all the amazing reasons why you should consider rehiring former employees as a recruitment tactic to boost employee retention.

Less time-consuming onboarding and initial support

To begin with, former colleagues need very little initial support and onboarding. In most cases, they are familiar with everything and everyone. From colleagues in different departments to specific tools and equipment, boomerang employees need no introduction.

Of course, if they haven’t been with your team and company for several years, this may be a different story. Things change fast. It may be the case that others familiar faces have left since their return.

You may be shocked to hear that the onboarding process doesn’t come without its cost. estimates that onboarding can cost in the region of £12,500, if a company is hiring 50 people per year, and spending 10 hours on paperwork and administrative tasks per new employee.

Boomerang employees are a great culture fit

In addition to reducing onboarding times and costs, boomerang employees will naturally adapt to the company culture through previous experience. They will have a clear idea of all expectations, making it a win-win for employers.

When employers hire new talent, they run the risk of disrupting the atmosphere, balance and overall togetherness of the workforce. This is almost avoidable, provided recruitment is carried out carefully.

But it can’t be ignored that one poor hire has the potential to wreak havoc on your team. For that reason, boomerang employees offer you the chance to avoid this issue altogether.

Boomerang employees may even offer you the support needed to direct your company culture, given they likely have a better understanding than some of your most recent hires.

Rehiring former employees can improve retention

Next, let’s discuss the positive difference boomerang employees can have on your retention rate. Believe it or not, a staggering 16.45% of new employees have left at least one role in the first week of a new position.

This figure demonstrates just how uncertain new hires are about whether they want to work at your company. As boomerang employees aren’t technically new, their expectation of culture, leadership and all other qualities that influence the quick departure of new starters isn’t likely to happen.

In reality, they wouldn’t be returning if it wasn’t already a workplace they feel comfortable and accepted in. This significantly benefits employee retention and should be highlighted when deciding on rehiring former employees.

Rehiring former employees that are twice as qualified

Lastly, let’s talk about boomerang employees and their skill sets. When you rehire former employees, they could fill a position in your team with twice as much skill and expertise as they previously did.

You could be essentially hiring a much more skilled employee than you would be when blindly hiring a new started based on CV credentials.

Finally, boomerang employees also have industry experience, fresh perspectives and new ideas to present.

Assuming they haven’t strayed far from your industry, it’s likely these kinds of workers will have a better understanding of the ins and outs of your business sector, services or product.

Summary of the benefits of boomerang employees

So, there you have it, the pros of rehiring former employees. Let’s summarise below:

  • Boomerang employees spend less time in the onboarding process
  • Former employees can make for a great culture fit
  • Help enhance your retention rate with former employees
  • In some cases, boomerang employees can be twice as skilled on their return

Now, let’s discuss the negative implications of rehiring former employees. Remember, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows with boomerang employees.

While we have discusses several points that make former employees sound appealing for your recruitment strategy, the following points must also be considered.

An employee sitting on her sofa and working on a Windows laptop
Boomerang employees pros and cons

Employees leave for a reason

While the list of benefits almost seems endless for hiring boomerang employees, don’t be fooled, it often doesn’t come without its challenges.

First of all, HR professionals should remember one thing…

People leave for a reason.

The reasons or problems that caused a boomerang employee to leave could, or are even likely to, still exist.

And logic would tell that they may depart just as quickly as you can hire them if that’s the case. Before giving the green light to rehire former employees, assess the problems that drove them away in the first place.

It may even be worth discussing why they left originally. This will give you a better idea of assessing if the workplace, its culture and the current team are a good fit for them.

Really get to know boomerang employees all over again

What’s more, while we mentioned that boomerang employees will find it easy to mesh with existing colleagues, you should prepare for changed personalities, expectations and other new traits.

People change, and that’s just a part of life. However, this also influences our approach to working environments. For instance, if a boomerang employee has been working in a highly tense, toxic environment, their attitude just might not suit your team.

And if they cause chaos in the morale of existing employees, you could see employee retention drop substantially. Be aware, be alert, and assess them against the person you used to know.

This obviously isn’t to say they have become a cruel and spiteful person, but every workplace has its own traits, and as employees, we adopt these to meet that of our peers.

Don’t be swayed by favouritism

Finally, while this isn’t exclusively the result of hiring a boomerang employee, they can heavily influence vital decision-making in the recruitment stage.

That’s because HR professionals are likely to overlook other talented potential candidates for the recognisable face of a boomerang employee.

While this isn’t too consequential, it can be if boomerang employees return only to simply to depart once they find a better role — of course, they have done so before.

It’s also possible that boomerang employees may not have been the best candidate in this pool of talent. We strongly advise that your recruitment team remain unbiased and don’t be swayed by favouritism.

Put the priorities of the business first, not the relationships between certain members of HR and leadership teams. Don’t take hiring boomerang employees lightly, and instead, dig deep into their reasons for leaving and returning. Treat them equally in the application process, as you would with other candidates.

Remember, act with the intention of boosting employee retention, reducing employee turnover and building a solid team that will thrive for months and years to come.

Summary of the negatives of boomerang employees

As we’ve done above, let’s summarise the negative points about rehiring former employees:

  • Never forget that most people don’t leave a job unless they’re unhappy
  • Truly get to know boomerang employees from scratch
  • Don’t be fooled by favouritism to hire the best candidate

Famous boomerang employees

Now, despite the ups and downs, the pros and cons of boomerang employees, there are some high-profile exceptions. Both Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter) and Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) were technically boomerang employees.

According to one article, Steve Jobs took a twelve-year break from working at Apple. As for Jack Dorsey, his seven-year break was used to found his second startup, Square.

Of course, these are extreme exceptions, as both were co-founders in some of the biggest companies of the world. However, they are still examples of boomerang employees.

While they can’t be easily compared to your circumstances, unless you too are rehiring a former co-founder, it’s an example that it can work!

A male employee working on a Macbook laptop in a trendy office setting
What will your team think about boomerang employees?

What your team will think about boomerang employees

Now we’re aware of the boomerang employees pros and cons, what will your team think about this decision? Will they welcome it wholeheartedly? Could it ruin your employee retention rates?

The best way to understand how your team members feel about the situation is simply to ask. There’s no better approach than discussion. It’s in these results that you will find whether it’s a good decision after all.

Now, your team’s response will likely be dictated by their experience with the boomerang employee. Some may have had bad experiences, while others could’ve loved their company, leadership style or teamwork traits.

What’s important, however, is that you take everyone’s points into consideration. After all, this could disrupt your employee retention strategies and throw a spanner in the works.

Actually, you could find yourself one boomerang employee up, and three talented team members down if they cause chaos and conflict.

If your boomerang employee left for reasons of disagreement, negative opinions of others or for some other bad blood, you should definitely not rehire them - it’s as simple as that.

Regardless of how skilled or professional they are, these types of individuals will devastate team morale, happiness and break the strong mould you have built.

Our best advice to you as an HR professional is to dig deeper into your team’s answers. Ask them, on a case-by-case basis, what they think about said boomerang employee returning.

It’s best to keep these conversations limited to leadership and management teams, so as not to create rumours if you don’t go ahead with the hire.

On the flip side, your team may really encourage you to hire a boomerang employee. They may find there’s a lot to learn from someone as experienced and knowledgeable as a former colleague.

Boomerang employees come with plenty of benefits, and if you’re looking to fill a managerial position, your existing team may welcome this idea - assuming they do not want to step up to a managerial role themselves.

Ultimately, your decision to hire these people should be the result of analysing the thoughts and feelings of your current team. Only then should you assume you’re ready to make the next step.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider, and the benefits measure up equally with the negative consequences that could occur.

It could be a match made in heaven, and your team may go on to grow and achieve great things. Make the decision that’s best for employee retention, your team, and your business objectives.

Boosting employee retention through health and wellbeing

There are of course other ways to boost employee retention, and it doesn’t start or end with hiring the best employees who you think won’t leave.

As an employee benefits platform, we’ve found that taking wellbeing seriously in the workplace is a recipe for success when it comes to employee retention. And that is exactly our mission. 

Through Heka, our members have access to 1000s of wellbeing experiences, services and products. 

That means your sales team in Newcastle all the way to your designers in London can book and buy everything from virtual yoga classes, healthy meal deliveries, or chat-based therapy sessions.

There’s really something for everyone on Heka, and we’ve built our platform as a remote-first software tool for creating healthier, happier teams. 

Our wellbeing experts and more than happy to discuss how Heka can benefit your team’s morale, happiness, productivity and performance - really, that’s the kind of power healthier lifestyles have on our careers!  

More articles just for you

Get free wellbeing updates from Heka 🙌

Enjoy exclusive invites & useful resources, for free!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.