What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee is a worker who leaves a company and is rehired at a later point to work in the same position or a different one.  Boomerang employees follow a circular trajectory like the v-shaped throwing stick for which they are named.

The main reasons employees leave a current position are to:

  • Further their career at another company
  • Pursue a passion
  • Cope with major life changes
  • Work seasonally (common in the hospitality or retail)

Why should HR leaders care about boomerang employees?

Millennial employees tend to change jobs more than employees from earlier generations; 60% report that they are “open to a different job opportunity.” In past decades, reaccepting an ex-employee was considered taboo. In the current job culture, however, boomerang employees have become acceptable and even beneficial to employers.   

The advantages of hiring boomerang employees are:

  • Familiarity with the company culture and the position
  • New skills from external job-experience 
  • Reduction of onboarding period and training costs  
  • Increased motivation and a new perspective 

What can HR leaders do to promote the successful integration of boomerang employees?

To encourage acceptance and smooth incorporation of top-performing boomerang employees, HR leaders can use these practices:

  • Say a graceful goodbye. HR leaders can implement an offboarding program that encourages empathetic and honest communication between employees and employers. HR professionals can facilitate an exit interview as part of the offboarding process, to allow employees to provide feedback on areas in need of improvement. This can better the company for the remaining employees, and ultimately for potential future boomerang employees.
  • Keep track of employee records. Organizing relevant employee information into an applicant tracking system can simplify the recruiting and hiring process. HR professionals can check past performance reviews and reports of employee synergy with team members. A boomerang employee can also qualify to receive sick days, vacation days, and tenure from the previous employment period, that could transfer to their new position.  
  • Build an alumni group. With former employees’ permission, HR professionals can facilitate an alumni group through social media or an email newsletter. This maintains the relationship and keeps them informed of changes within the company. Keeping-in-touch leaves the door open to alumni in case they’d ever like to reapply, or if the employer decides to extend a job offer.
  • Have empathy for departing employees. HR leaders can protect relationships with departing employees by supporting them during the exit stage. Employees who are let go should be provided with outplacement services and if possible a severance package. Departing employees serve as brand ambassadors by default, so treating them kindly and respectfully is not only the right thing to do, it can also benefit the company. 
  • Create a positive company culture. HR professionals can build a positive company culture that encourages collaboration, interpersonal relationships, and gratitude among employees and managers. A pleasant and supportive work community can attract more top-performing employees back.
  • Focus on quality.  HR leaders should only seek to rehire top-performing employees who left on good terms, so they can seamlessly reintegrate into the company culture. It’s also essential that HR leaders consider boomerang employees and new candidates equally –just because a boomerang employee is familiar with the company, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best candidate for the job. 

How can boomerang employees improve company culture?

High-performing boomerang employees can bring beneficial skills, experience, and enthusiasm to the company. Their return can boost morale and a shared sense of purpose in the workplace, proving that the company is so good, they had to come back.