Boomerang Employees: A Guide

It’s no secret that employees are changing jobs much more frequently than in prior generations; the median employee tenure is a mere 4.2 years. Often employees leave companies to take their next career step—only to realize that their previous role was a better fit.

The Workforce Institute at Kronos and released a study that shows there is a rising trend of “boomerang” employees. According to the study, nearly 40% of employees said they would consider going back to a company where they previously worked. In the past five years, 85% of the 1,800 HR professionals surveyed say they have received job applications from former employees. Even more surprisingly, 40% say their organization hired about half of those former employees who applied.

For this reason, it is important to maintain a good relationship with former high performing employees. This network is a great resource for future hiring of candidates who have essentially already been culture-screened, onboarded, and trained.

So how can you make sure you’re top of mind when these employees are ready to boomerang? We’ve got you covered. Here are five tips for finding, reintegrating, and retaining boomerang employees:

1. Make Sure to Conduct Exit Interviews

In the chaos of employee departures, exit interviews can fall through the cracks. But they’re an invaluable resource to you as an HR professional. Not only can you receive valuable feedback, but you can also establish the terms on which employees leave. If you genuinely listen and show appreciation for their hard work, they will be more likely to walk away with a positive impression of the company, and as a result, will be more inclined to consider returning in the future.

2. Build an Alumni Network

High performers are likely to have a stake in your company’s success, even after their departure. HR practitioners say they use several strategies to keep in touch with former high-performing employees, including email newsletters, recruiters, and alumni groups. According to these professionals, Facebook is the platform of choice (42%), with email (39%) and LinkedIn (33%) close behind.

Set up groups on Facebook or LinkedIn to share company news, help former employees stay in touch with each other, invite them to company events, and even share job postings. You might also consider sending an email newsletter to former employees—but be mindful of sharing pertinent information and not veering into company spam. Regardless of whether your alumni network results in boomerang employees, it will help you keep your company top of mind.

3. Cultivate a Culture of Transparency

If you’re transparent about employee departures within your organization, it will be easier for boomerang employees to reintegrate comfortably. When an employee leaves, clearly explain the situation to your team and be open to any questions they have. You should also be transparent with the departing employee, asking for honest feedback, and explaining how the employee’s departure will be communicated internally. This frees your organization from any ambiguity, and if the employee boomerangs, it makes for a much smoother return.

4. Maintain Personal Relationships

Beyond your alumni network, stay in touch with former employees and encourage their team members and managers to do the same. Check in with high performers once or twice a year to see how they’re doing in their new roles. If former employees feel like they have an ally at the company, they will be more inclined to reach out about open positions. Showing that you’re invested in their success, even if they are not currently employed at your company, makes you much more approachable if they decide to come back.

5. Re-Onboard Boomerangers

No matter how much time has passed since a boomerang employee left the company, be sure he or she goes through onboarding again. This will help re-orient them to the current company culture and refresh their understanding of how things work. Depending on how much time has passed or how much the company has changed, there may also be new policies or workflows to update them on. Help make them feel like they never left by sponsoring a first-day lunch with their manager or posting a special welcome on the Namely feed.

There are many advantages to maintaining a good relationship with former employees—with talent acquisition high among them. Creating a pathway for employees to boomerang can be a low-cost, high impact initiative. Plus, it’s always great to welcome a familiar face back to the office!

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