Boomerang employees and their impact on business

A quick summary:

  • What is a boomerang employee? 🔎
  • What are the benefits of a boomerang employee? ✅
  • What are the negatives impacts to be aware of? ❌
  • What will my team think about an employee returning? 💭
  • How Heka helps boost your employee retention 💚

Employees come and go, it’s nothing personal - at least not always! However, in the current recruiting climate of a post-covid world, more and more companies are looking to rehire former employees. 👀

As the Great Resignation of 2021/2022 rages on, HR professionals have begun to explore different ways of sourcing the very best talent. Even if that means their former colleagues. 

With employee retention rates plummeting in the aftermath of COVID-19, much more needs to be done to retain people, and it seems that while technically boomerang employees do leave, they could be a great addition to 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. 

As always, we’ve made an effort to establish each side of the story - the good, the bad and the outright ugly when it comes to hiring former employees. Who knows? You might end this read with a swift phone call to a previous colleague… 📱

It could be the start (or the rekindling) of something brilliant! 🚀

what does boomerang employee mean?
What exactly is a boomerang employee?

What does ‘boomerang employee’ mean? 🔎

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 a boomerang employee 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. 

Now that we understand exactly what being a boomerang employee means, what are the benefits for your business? Can they injure employee retention? And what will your existing team think about returning employees?

What are the benefits of a boomerang employee?
How can a boomerang employee benefit your business?

The benefits of boomerang employees for your business ✅

Starting with the positives of boomerang employees, you may be surprised to hear of all the amazing reasons why you should consider this as a recruitment tactic and boost to employee retention. 

To begin with, former colleagues need very little initial support and onboarding - they are familiar with everything and everyone. From Ian in tech to where the vending machine is located, they 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, and 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. In fact, 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.

What’s more, boomerang employees will naturally adapt to the company culture through previous experience, and will have a clear idea of all expectations. It’s essentially a win-win for employers and can boost employee retention!

That’s because a staggering 16.45% of new employees have left at least one role in the first week of a new position. As boomerang employees aren’t technically new, their expectation of culture, leadership and all other qualities that dictate the quick departure of new starters isn’t going to come as a shock. 

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 recruiting former talent.

Hiring boomerang employees not only comes with the above benefits, but 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 blindly hiring a new started based on hope and CV credentials. 

Finally, boomerang employees also have industry experience, fresh perspective 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. 

The negative impacts of boomerang employees ❌

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 returning workers, 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. 

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 attitudes 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. 

Finally, while this isn’t exclusively the result of hiring a boomerang employee, they can heavily influence a vital decision-making process. That’s because HR professionals are often likely to overlook other talented potential candidates for the recognisable face of a previous 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. 

Ultimately, you should prepare for all scenarios and outcomes. Don’t take hiring boomerang employees lightly, and instead dig deep into their reasons for leaving and returning, and 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.

What will my team think about boomerang employees?
How will your team react to boomerang employees?

What your team will think about boomerang employees 👀

Now we’re aware of the pros and cons of hiring former employees, what will your team think about this decision? Will they welcome it wholeheartedly? Could it actually 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 to ask the question. It’s in the 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 of the returning employee. Some may have had bad experiences, others could’ve loved their company, leadership style or teamwork traits. 

What is 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 3 team members down if they cause chaos and conflict. 

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

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

Our best advice to you as HR professional and leader, 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, as not to create rumours and an uncomfortable return, if you do 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 benefits, negatives and your team’s thoughts. 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. This decision could have a detrimental impact on your employee retention rates. 

Although, it could also benefit your employee retention strategies. It could be a match made in heaven, and your team continues to grow and achieve great things. Make the decision that’s best for employee retention, your team, and your business’ objectives. 

Using Heka to boost employee retention

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!  

Book a demo today!

Further reading 📖

Download our latest resource on employee onboarding.