What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee is a professional 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 they are named after.

The main reasons professionals leave a current position are to:

  • Further their career at another company
  • Pursue a passion
  • Cope with significant life changes
  • Work seasonally (especially common in the hospitality and retail industries)

Why should HR leaders care about boomerang employees? 

Millennials tend to change jobs more than professionals from earlier generations—60 percent report being “open to a different job opportunity.” In past decades, reaccepting an ex-employee was considered taboo. But in the current job culture, boomerang workers 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 
  • Reduced onboarding time and training costs  
  • Increased motivation and a new perspective

What are the pros and cons of boomerang employees?

As mentioned above, one of the most important pros of rehiring former employees is their ability to offer familiarity with your organization along with new experience and skills.

However, there are still possible cons to hiring boomerang employees, including:

  • Their potential to bring a sense of bitterness or bad blood into the workplace if they left on less-than-ideal terms
  • If policies or company culture have changed, boomerang workers may have difficulty acclimating to the changes 
  • Even with experience, boomerang employees may not be the best candidate for the role

What is the most effective way to handle boomerang employees?

The choice to work with boomerang employees requires an understanding of how to handle them throughout the employee lifecycle. When it comes to recruitment, interviewing, and onboarding, here are some important tips to consider.

  • Know who makes a good boomerang employee. Not all previous employees are fit for rehire. When recruiting boomerang workers, aim to choose those who left the organization on good terms, such as for personal reasons or to gain more experience in the field. 
  • Clear the air. In the interview process, it’s important to understand why a person left and whether or not they took any unresolved issues with them. It is important to address and clear up any issues for future success in the organization.
  • Leave the door open. Make sure that previous employees know they are welcome to interview again by maintaining relationships with previous talent.
  • Focus on reintegration. Onboarding a former employee is as important as onboarding a new one. Don’t skimp out on the process of integrating a boomerang employee into what is certain to be a changed team and company.

What are some recommended interview questions for boomerang employees?

Naturally, interviews for boomerang employees are different than those you would have with brand-new candidates. Here are some interview questions you can use to understand whether a former team member might be a good fit for rehiring.

  • Why did you previously leave the company? 
  • Where have you been working since you left the company?
  • How have your skills improved since leaving? 
  • In what way will the work experience you’ve had since leaving the company help you if you return to work here?
  • Are there any unresolved issues with your former co-workers or manager?
  • What makes you want to rejoin the company at this time?

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

HR leaders can use these practices to encourage acceptance and smooth incorporation of top-performing boomerang workers:

  • Say a graceful goodbye. HR leaders can implement an offboarding program that encourages empathetic and honest communication between people and employers. Including an exit interview as part of the offboarding process allows people to provide feedback on areas in need of improvement. This can better the company for the remaining people 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 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 if they’d ever like to reapply or if the employer decides to extend a job offer.
  • Have empathy for departing team members. HR leaders can protect relationships with departing team members by supporting them during the exit stage. It’s good practice to provide people you’ve let go 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, but 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 people and managers. A friendly and supportive work community can attract more top-performing people back.
  • Focus on quality.  HR leaders should only seek to rehire top-performing people 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 an organization. Their return can boost morale and create a shared sense of purpose in the workplace, proving that your company is such a great place to work that people want to come back even after departing.