Employer Branding

The Benefits of Hiring Boomerang Employees

Look out at the labor economy and you’ll find a dire situation for employers and recruiters entering 2017. The U.S. unemployment rate is at its lowest point in eight years. At the same time, the number of job openings nationwide is approaching 6 million—the highest number recorded since the statistic started being tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2000. The average cost per hire has risen to over $4,000 and essential roles that needed to be filled yesterday are remaining vacant for more than a month.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, leading organizations to consider unlikely sources for talent more than ever. Perhaps that explains why “boomerang employees”—workers who leave a company voluntarily only to be rehired at a later time—are on the rise.

If you’ve been hesitant to welcome back former employees, you’re certainly not alone. But opinions are changing, and the faux pas surrounding welcoming back these workers has all but disappeared. In fact, according to a study by Workplace Trends, 76 percent of HR professionals say they are more likely to hire boomerang employees now than in the past. At the same time, 40 percent of employees say they would consider returning to a company where they previously worked. You may very well have former employees in your network itching to return.

These comeback kids offer a number of benefits over standard applicants. They bring with them proven success (where unknowns carry a ton of question marks), familiarity with company culture and processes (which means less training) and a reminder to coworkers thinking about leaving that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The lower costs and effort needed to recruit boomerang employees can save companies up to $20,000 per hire.

There’s a reason companies have been wary of these workers in the past though. Boomerang employees can cling stubbornly to old ideas, expect perks or increased compensation from their original tenure or bring back past friction with other employees. There’s no guarantee that they’re the best candidate in your pipeline for a certain position, and they also decided to leave once before. Who’s to say they won’t do it again?

Should you decide the pros outweigh the cons, there’s still the question of how to actually woo great workers back. After all, have you actually thrown a boomerang? Without proper technique and practice, it can go sailing off never to be seen again. Given that 80 percent of employees say their former employers don’t have a strategy in place to encourage their return, that adds up to a lot of promising boomerangs never making their way back.

If you’re part of this 80 percent, our infographic below—”How to Maintain Boomerang Employee Relations”—is here to offer guidance. In it we discuss tips and best practices to maintain contact with boomerang employees through every step of their trajectory, from when they leave to when they’re at their new gig and finally when they start looking for jobs again. We also highlight strategies you can use to entice former workers to reapply for their old job.

The infographic also explains how solutions like an applicant tracking system can allow you to put these practices into place. You can import existing employee information in from your HRIS, add boomerangs to job opening candidate pools, track interactions, request performance feedback from managers, compare boomerangs with other promising job applicants and more—all without shifting precious resources away from your standard recruiting operations.

Employees are more mobile than ever (over 3 million workers quit their jobs in July 2016 alone), but with the right strategy and software in place, you can catch a boomerang employee on their return journey and convince them to stay for good.”

About the author: Brian Westfall is senior market research associate for the applicant tracking system consulting firm Software Advice, a Gartner company.

Software Advice's Boomerang Employee Infographic

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