What is Boomerang Employee?

A boomerang employee is an employee who leaves a company they work for, but then later returns to work for the company once again.

In today's rapidly evolving professional landscape, a fascinating trend is taking shape, challenging conventional notions of loyalty and career paths. Welcome to the era of the "boomerang employee" – a phenomenon that has been gaining remarkable momentum across industries worldwide. These boomerangs, aptly named after the returning trajectory of a boomerang in flight, are individuals who leave an organization only to come back later, armed with newfound skills, fresh perspectives, and an unwavering passion to make a lasting impact.

The rise of the boomerang employee has ignited a paradigm shift in how organizations perceive and engage with their former team members. According to recent studies, an astonishing 76% of companies reported experiencing the boomerang effect, where employees leave and later rejoin the organization in various capacities.

But what motivates these boomerang employees to return to their former stomping grounds? A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) uncovered that a staggering 85% of boomerang employees cited a strong sense of belonging and familiarity with the organization's culture as the primary reason for their return.

Beyond the allure of a familiar workplace culture, boomerang employees bring immense value to organizations in terms of their skills and expertise. A study by the Workforce Institute revealed that boomerang employees exhibit higher levels of productivity and loyalty compared to their non-boomerang counterparts. In fact, organizations that actively embrace and foster a boomerang-friendly environment experience an average 21% increase in productivity.

As the competition for top talent intensifies and the war for skilled professionals wages on, businesses are recognizing the strategic advantages of cultivating boomerang-friendly policies and practices. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn have actively embraced the boomerang effect, reaping the rewards of an enhanced talent pool, reduced onboarding time, and an accelerated pace of innovation.

Join us as we explore the untapped potential of boomerang employees, transforming the traditional notions of departure and return into a dynamic cycle of growth, collaboration, and unprecedented success.

What is a Boomerang Employee?

A boomerang employee refers to someone who leaves an organization voluntarily but later returns to work for the same company after a period of time. The term "boomerang" is used because it signifies the individual's departure and subsequent return, much like a boomerang that is thrown away but comes back to its origin.

A boomerang employee, also known as a boomerang hire, refers to an individual who leaves an organization voluntarily, either through resignation or pursuing opportunities elsewhere, and later returns to work for the same organization again at a later point in their career. In essence, they "come back" to the organization like a boomerang.

Boomerang employees can come back to the same position or take on a new role within the organization. Their reasons for leaving and returning can vary. Some individuals may leave to explore other opportunities, gain additional experience, or pursue personal goals, while others may depart due to layoffs or other circumstances beyond their control. Upon their return, they bring with them new skills, fresh perspectives, and potentially a greater appreciation for the organization.

Key points to understand about boomerang employees include:

1. Voluntary departure: Boomerang employees choose to leave the organization voluntarily, often to explore other career opportunities, gain new experiences, or pursue personal development. Their departure is not typically a result of termination or negative circumstances.

2. Rehire by the same organization: Boomerang employees are later rehired by the organization they previously worked for. The organization may actively seek out former employees or the employee may apply for an open position within the organization.

3. Benefits for the organization: Hiring boomerang employees can offer several advantages for the organization. These individuals are already familiar with the organization's culture, processes, and expectations, which can lead to a shorter onboarding period and faster integration into the team. Boomerang employees may also bring external perspectives, experiences, and skills gained from their time away.

4. Benefits for the employee: Boomerang employees may also benefit from returning to a previous employer. They already have knowledge of the organization's work environment, systems, and colleagues, which can facilitate a smoother transition. They may have a stronger understanding of the organization's values and mission, potentially leading to increased job satisfaction and engagement.

5. Evolving attitudes toward boomerang employees: In the past, it was less common for employees to return to their former employers. However, attitudes have shifted, and organizations increasingly recognize the value of boomerang employees. They are seen as an opportunity to tap into a pool of known talent and minimize the risks associated with hiring unknown candidates.

6. Contributing factors: Several factors can influence an employee's decision to return to a previous employer. These may include a positive previous work experience, strong relationships with former colleagues or supervisors, attractive job opportunities or benefits offered by the organization, career advancement prospects, or changes within the individual's personal circumstances.

7. Alumni networks and relationship management: Organizations are beginning to build alumni networks to maintain connections with former employees and facilitate future rehiring. These networks can help foster positive relationships, provide opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing, and keep boomerang employees engaged even after they have left the organization.

Boomerang employees can bring valuable skills, experience, and organizational knowledge to an organization, while also benefiting from a familiarity with the work environment. As a result, more organizations are open to considering and welcoming back former employees as part of their talent acquisition and retention strategies.

What to Consider when Hiring Boomerang Employees?

When considering hiring boomerang employees, there are several factors to take into account. Here are some key considerations:

  • Performance and Fit: Evaluate the individual's past performance and their fit within the organization's culture. Assess whether their skills, experience, and work style align with the current needs of the company.
  • Reason for Departure: Understand why the employee left the organization in the first place. If they left voluntarily, assess their reasons for returning and whether they have addressed any previous concerns or issues.
  • Growth and Development: Determine if the boomerang employee has gained new skills, knowledge, or experience during their time away. Consider how their growth and development can benefit the organization in terms of innovation, fresh perspectives, and expanded capabilities.
  • Employee Engagement: Assess the level of engagement and loyalty the boomerang employee demonstrated during their previous tenure. A study by Workplace Trends found that 76% of HR professionals consider boomerang employees to be high-value hires because of their familiarity with the company's culture and values.
  • Impact on Team Dynamics: Consider how the return of a former employee may affect team dynamics. Evaluate potential conflicts or challenges that may arise when reintegrating them into existing teams. Communication and transparency are crucial in managing these dynamics effectively.
  • Reputation and References: Check the boomerang employee's references and seek feedback from previous supervisors and colleagues to gain insights into their work ethic, performance, and professionalism.
  • Cost and Time Savings: Hiring boomerang employees can be more cost-effective and efficient compared to onboarding new employees. A study conducted by Workplace Trends found that rehiring former employees can reduce recruiting and onboarding costs by up to 30%.
  • Organizational Impact: Consider the potential impact on the organization's brand and reputation if former employees are rehired. Evaluate how their return may be perceived by current employees, clients, and stakeholders.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Boomerang Employee

Pros of Hiring Boomerang Employees

  • Familiarity with the Organization: Boomerang employees are already familiar with the company's culture, values, and processes. This familiarity can lead to a shorter onboarding time and reduced training costs compared to hiring new employees.
  • Increased Productivity and Engagement: Boomerang employees often exhibit higher levels of productivity and engagement. They are motivated to make the most of their second chance and may have gained valuable experience and skills during their time away.
  • Retention and Loyalty: Boomerang employees who return voluntarily demonstrate a level of loyalty and commitment to the organization. They have experienced working elsewhere and actively chose to return, indicating a positive perception of the company.

Cons of Hiring Boomerang Employees

  • Potential for Unresolved Issues: If a boomerang employee left the organization due to unresolved conflicts or issues, those problems may resurface upon their return. It is crucial to address and resolve any past concerns before rehiring them to ensure a healthy work environment.
  • Limited Fresh Perspectives: While boomerang employees bring back valuable experience, they may lack fresh perspectives and diverse ideas that come from external hires. It is important to strike a balance between the benefits of their previous knowledge and the need for new perspectives to drive innovation.
  • Impact on Team Dynamics: Reintegrating a boomerang employee into a team can disrupt existing dynamics. Other team members might question the fairness of the rehiring decision or feel uncertain about the returning employee's role. Open communication and transparent explanations can help mitigate these challenges.

Risks of Hiring a Boomerang Employee

While hiring a boomerang employee can have its benefits, there are also potential risks that organizations should consider. These risks include:

  • Lack of Long-Term Commitment: Hiring a boomerang employee who has already left the organization once raises concerns about their long-term commitment.
  • Potential Negative Impact on Team Morale: Bringing back a former employee may lead to resentment or decreased morale among other team members who may perceive the rehired individual as receiving special treatment. This can disrupt team dynamics and affect overall productivity and collaboration.
  • Limited Diversity of Perspectives: Rehiring former employees may limit the diversity of perspectives within the organization. By continuously bringing back former employees, companies risk missing out on fresh ideas and innovative approaches that can come from hiring new talent.
  • Reinforcing Previous Inefficiencies: Boomerang employees may return with ingrained habits, work styles, or ways of thinking that were prevalent during their previous tenure. This could lead to the reestablishment of outdated or inefficient practices, hindering progress and growth.
  • Cultural Misalignment: Over time, organizations can undergo cultural changes, and returning employees may find it challenging to adapt to the evolved work environment. This can result in a misalignment of values, expectations, and work dynamics, leading to potential conflicts.

How Common are Boomerang Employees?

Boomerang employees are becoming increasingly common. In 2021, boomerang employees accounted for 4.5% of all new hires among companies on the professional networking website LinkedIn, up from 3.9% over the same period in 2019. This trend is expected to continue in the years to come, as employers become more open to hiring former employees and as workers become more willing to return to their former companies.

There are a number of reasons why boomerang employees are becoming more common. One reason is the Great Resignation, which has led to a highly competitive labor market. In this environment, employers are more likely to consider hiring former employees who they know and trust. Additionally, many workers who left their jobs during the pandemic have since realized that they were better off at their old jobs. This has led to an increase in boomerang employees, as these workers return to their former companies in search of stability and familiarity.

According to a recent survey by Workhuman, 43% of workers who quit their jobs during the pandemic have since returned to their old employers. The survey also found that boomerang employees are more likely to be managers than non-managers, perhaps because organizations often try to entice former employees to return by offering them higher-paying roles with management responsibilities.

Best Practices for welcoming Boomerange Employee

Welcoming boomerang employees back to the organization requires careful planning and implementation to ensure a smooth transition and integration. Here are some best practices for welcoming boomerang employees:

  • Maintain Positive Communication: Stay in touch with former employees who have expressed interest in returning. Maintain open lines of communication and provide updates on new opportunities within the organization. Regularly engage with them to express interest in their career development and discuss potential roles.
  • Conduct an Exit Interview: When an employee leaves the organization, conduct an exit interview to gather feedback and understand their reasons for leaving. This information can be valuable in addressing any concerns and improving the work environment, making it more attractive for their potential return.
  • Maintain a Strong Alumni Network: Cultivate an active alumni network by organizing events, networking opportunities, or online platforms where former employees can stay connected. This helps foster a sense of belonging and can increase the likelihood of a boomerang employee considering a return.
  • Evaluate Their Experience: When a boomerang employee expresses interest in returning, evaluate their previous experience within the organization. Consider their performance, skills, and cultural fit during their initial tenure. This evaluation will help determine the potential fit for the available positions and ensure that rehiring is a mutually beneficial decision.
  • Provide Orientation and Onboarding: Although boomerang employees may be familiar with some aspects of the organization, provide them with an orientation session to update them on any changes, new policies, or procedures. Assign them a mentor or buddy to support their onboarding process and help them acclimate to any new roles or responsibilities.
  • Recognize Growth and Development: Acknowledge the growth and development that boomerang employees have achieved since their departure. Appreciate their acquired skills, experiences, and fresh perspectives, and provide opportunities for them to apply and share these assets within the organization.
  • Address Concerns of Other Employees: Be proactive in addressing any concerns or potential tension among existing employees regarding the rehiring of a boomerang employee. Communicate the reasons behind the decision and highlight the benefits that the returning employee brings to the organization. Encourage open dialogue and provide opportunities for team members to ask questions or express any reservations they may have.
  • Support Transition and Integration: Offer support to boomerang employees during their transition back into the organization. Provide resources, training, or mentoring opportunities to help them adapt to any changes and reintegrate into the team. Encourage them to leverage their previous knowledge while remaining open to new ideas and approaches.

Why do Employees Boomerang?

Employees choose to boomerang, or return to a former employer, for a variety of reasons. Understanding these motivations can provide insights into why individuals consider coming back to an organization. Here are some common reasons why employees choose to boomerang:

  • Career Advancement: Boomerang employees may perceive better career opportunities and growth prospects upon returning to a previous employer. They may have gained valuable skills, experiences, or education during their time away, and they see the potential to leverage these assets in a higher-level position or more challenging role within the organization.
  • Company Culture and Familiarity: A positive work environment and a strong sense of company culture can be attractive factors for boomerang employees. They may have enjoyed their previous experience with the organization, appreciating the values, relationships, and camaraderie it offered. Returning allows them to rejoin a familiar and supportive work environment.
  • Change in Personal Circumstances: Life circumstances can change, prompting employees to seek opportunities closer to home, accommodate family needs, or adjust work-life balance. Returning to a former employer might provide the desired flexibility or convenience that aligns better with their current situation.
  • Reconnecting with Former Colleagues: Boomerang employees often value the professional relationships they built during their previous tenure. Returning to the organization enables them to reconnect and collaborate with former colleagues, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
  • Improved Compensation and Benefits: Boomerang employees may negotiate better compensation packages and improved benefits upon their return. Organizations may recognize the value of their previous experience and offer more competitive remuneration to attract them back.
  • Career Regret or Unfulfillment: Some employees may leave an organization and later realize that they miss the work, the industry, or the specific challenges it presented. They might come to regret their decision to leave and seek opportunities to return and reignite their passion for the work they previously enjoyed.

Interview Questions for Boomerang Employees

When conducting an interview with a boomerang employee, it's essential to focus on their past experiences, reasons for returning, and their fit within the current organization. Here are some interview questions specifically tailored for boomerang employees:

  1. What motivated you to consider returning to our organization after your previous departure?
  2. How has your experience outside of our organization contributed to your professional growth and development?
  3. What specific skills or knowledge have you acquired during your time away that you believe would be valuable in your potential role here?
  4. Can you describe any changes or improvements you observed in our organization since your previous tenure, and how do you see yourself contributing to these changes?
  5. How do you envision your previous experience and familiarity with our organization benefiting you in your potential role?
  6. During your time away, what did you learn about yourself and your career aspirations that led you to consider returning to our organization?
  7. What aspects of our company culture or work environment stand out to you as appealing, and how do they align with your personal values and preferences?
  8. Can you provide an example of a challenging situation you faced during your previous tenure with our organization and how you handled it? What did you learn from that experience?
  9. How do you anticipate your relationships with former colleagues, supervisors, or subordinates impacting your ability to reintegrate into the team?
  10. What are your long-term career goals, and how do you see your potential role with us aligning with those goals?
  11. How have you kept yourself updated with industry trends and changes during your time away, and how do you plan to stay current in your field if you return to our organization?
  12. What is your perception of any changes in our company's strategy or direction since your previous tenure, and how do you see yourself contributing to those objectives?

Onboarding Tips for Boomerang Employee

  • Welcome Back and Acknowledge Their Return: Start the onboarding process by extending a warm welcome to the boomerang employee. Acknowledge their previous tenure with the organization and express appreciation for their decision to return. Make them feel valued and reinforce their sense of belonging.
  • Update Them on Organizational Changes: Provide a comprehensive overview of any significant changes that have occurred within the organization since their departure. Share updates on new projects, initiatives, team structures, policies, and procedures. This helps the boomerang employee become aware of any changes and ensures they are up-to-date.
  • Refresher Training and Knowledge Transfer: Offer refresher training sessions to help the boomerang employee reacquaint themselves with relevant systems, processes, and tools. Assign a mentor or buddy who can provide guidance and support during the initial stages of their return. Encourage knowledge sharing among team members to facilitate a smooth transition.
  • Introduce to New Colleagues and Teams: Facilitate introductions to new colleagues and teams, even if some familiar faces remain. Arrange team meetings or social gatherings to foster connections and help the boomerang employee rebuild relationships with both new and existing team members. Encourage open communication and collaboration.
  • Discuss Any Changes in Expectations or Goals: Conduct a conversation with the boomerang employee to align expectations and goals. Discuss any changes in job responsibilities, performance metrics, or organizational objectives. This ensures clarity and sets the foundation for their success in their new or updated role.

The Final Word

Boomerang employees have become increasingly common in today's workforce, with many organizations actively considering rehiring former employees. By implementing best practices for welcoming boomerang employees and providing them with a smooth onboarding process, organizations can tap into the unique skills, experiences, and perspectives that these individuals bring. Ultimately, embracing boomerang employees and using stratergies to increase employee engagement can contribute to a more diverse, dynamic, and successful workforce, benefiting both the organization and the employees themselves.