The rise of the ‘boomerang employee’ trend
We have encountered a period in history that many of us will never forget. Reflecting on what has happened in the employment sector, it is not surprising that 2021 became the year of people resigning from their jobs in huge numbers. But what happens when the employee wants to come back?
Working lives have changed dramatically. The advent of furlough and the need for people to work remotely from home has affected the way many people feel about their jobs and their future working life. This has resulted in a high level of employee turnover in 2021/2022, and one of the main HR challenges this year is an extremely competitive job hiring market.
To address these challenges employers must be creative with recruiting strategies – they can’t simply rely on traditional methods like job postings and employee referrals anymore. Alternative strategies, such as tapping into the ‘boomerang employee’ trend, might be a viable way to fill vacancies with relevant talent.
What is a ‘boomerang employee’?
Whether it’s for personal reasons or professional reasons, a ‘boomerang employee’ is an employee that resigned from a company and chose to take a job elsewhere (or quit work altogether) for a time and then goes back to work for their former company.
According to the Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study by Workplace Trends, 15% of employees have boomeranged back to a former employee.
40% of employees say they would consider boomeranging back to a company where they had previously worked (this includes 46% of Millennials, 33% of Gen Xers, and 29% of Baby Boomers). Therefore, these workers present a potentially untapped pool of candidates as companies continue to struggle to fill open roles.
The reasons for leaving
The reasons for a boomerang employee leaving their job are varied. For example:
- Receiving another seemingly more attractive job offer elsewhere to further their career, learn new skills, or receive a higher pay when another opportunity presented itself.
- To try something different, explore other industries, or pursue a passion.
- Going through a change in life circumstances or to focus on a major life event, such as a spouse’s relocation, caring for a child, or a medical condition.
- Taking some time away from work altogether as a result of burnout.
The reasons for boomerang employees going back
The overriding reason for boomerang employees going back to a former company is that leaving their old role wasn’t as satisfying as they thought it would be, and leaving a company has allowed them to reassess their former role in a different and more positive light. Other reasons cited were because the new company did not have the right culture, the employee has recovered from burnout, and because their original employer has changed its views on things such as flexible working.
Conversely, the pandemic may also be directly to blame for the rise in boomerang hires. According to the Financial Times, over the last two years, people quitting jobs and starting new roles will have had to deal with remote onboarding and working from home. All of which make it harder to get to grips with a new company and to create social bonds with new colleagues.
What are the advantages of rehiring a boomerang employee?
These employees already know the ins, outs and nuances of the organisation and have a good understanding of the expectations set by the employer. They are also aware of the company culture and what their role entails – if they’re returning to the same role. Even if they are being hired for a different role, the learning curve for rehires is far less than new hires because of their knowledge of the company, making the transition more manageable from the start. Therefore, the rehiring of boomerang employees can be less time consuming and more cost-effective in terms of onboarding processes and training costs.
According to the Financial Times, many boomerangs will return to a company with newfound confidence after learning new skills and gaining new experience, but being able to apply them in a familiar, comfortable setting.
Other boomerang employees may feel more confident dealing with their bosses after leaving and being re-hired. Returning employees will also have a better understanding of how a company works, meaning getting settled in can be a more enjoyable experience when compared to trying to get to grips with a new working culture remotely.
Boomerang employees also provide a window into the strengths and weaknesses of your organization, shedding light on why people are leaving and what’s bringing them back. They also offer a fresh perspective on the organisation they are returning to because they’ve had time away, perhaps even within a competitive organisation, and now bring with them a new outlook on the market and the organisation itself.
Example interview questions for boomerang employees
A boomerang employee interview is a little different than a new-hire interview. Here are some examples of interview questions specifically geared toward boomerang employees.
- What have you been doing since you left the company?
- How have you increased your skill set and experience?
- Are there any unresolved issues with the company or former co-workers?
- Why do you want to come back at this time?
It’s important to onboard the employee, even though it may feel like they already know the organisation, so treat the employee like they are new. It’s a great opportunity to reground them in your employment brand, as well as get them excited about what’s changed.
The employee needs to be clear about what’s different since they left. If the boomerang employee is returning to a significantly different team structure, it’s important for them to understand how they will interact with the new dynamic.
If they are returning to a similar team, it’s important to consider if there are any previous relationships issues that need to be addressed.