What do Steve Jobs, LeBron James and Steve Huffman (co-founder of Reddit) all have in common? Each of these stars once left a high-profile job and later returned to that same employer under updated circumstances. The practice has gained so much popularity in recent years that it has generated its own buzzword: "boomerang employees."
Why is this a trend you should pay attention to? With the unemployment rate under 3 percent in some states, according to August 2018 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you may be having some trouble recruiting new employees. The situation isn't helped by the fact that demand for workers is at an all-time high, with the average job opening staying unfilled for a month. There just aren't that many skilled people floating around out there looking for work, so you may be in the position of poaching job candidates away from their current employer.
Why Boomerang Employees Are Good for Business
Your former employees represent one of your most promising pools of top candidates. Here's why:
They'll Take Your Call
You know your former employees personally, unlike the random strangers who respond to your ads, so it's easy to reach out and have a relaxed, candid conversation about whether a new job opening might be a good fit for them. Brendan Browne, LinkedIn's Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition, notes, "Employees might move around more, but they also remain much more connected to former employers. Social media and alumni networks have played a crucial role in helping maintain relationships between employers and their former employees."
Everyone Knows What to Expect
You'll save money on the onboarding process as well, because returning workers are already familiar with your company routines and expectations. Knowing their abilities and work habits makes them a safer bet for you as well. Fox Business writes, "Employers can also be more confident in their decision when hiring a former employee who was previously a strong performer at the company. Forecasting how the new hire will do is less of a guessing game." Workers who get up to speed more quickly will get productivity back to normal levels more readily, and they will also bring fresh industry knowledge from their outside contacts.
They Strengthen Employee Loyalty
Brian Hughes, founder and CEO of Integrity Marketing and Consulting, writes that returning employees boost company morale and increase employee alignment and loyalty. He notes that in most cases, employees miss colleagues who leave, and rehiring a former team member can spread a sense of happiness and well-being through the workplace. Brendan Browne agrees: "There is an established employee-employer relationship that adds another layer of employee loyalty to the company, which in turn leads to increased retention." Furthermore, the reappearance of former workers is a real validation of your brand as an employer, demonstrating that their current situation is one of the better ones out there.
It's the New Normal
Your biggest talent pool is likely to consist of millennial and younger workers, and their concept of career is different from that of previous generations. Instead of feeling loyal to a company that employs them for decades, today's workers build their careers on their own personal skill sets. To quote Brendan Browne, "The concept of loyalty has simply evolved." A LinkedIn study supplies the data behind this trend, finding that the number of employers that people work for in the five-year period after graduation has nearly doubled in the past two decades. A Deloitte study also notes that two-thirds of millennials say that they are open to leaving their current employer before 2020. And while these younger workers don't job-hop just for the sake of novelty, they do look for employers who offer upward mobility and a chance to contribute to a company's mission and values.
Best Practices for Encouraging Employees to Come Back
Eighty percent of workers surveyed by Software Advice stated that their former employers don't have any strategy for encouraging former employees to return. Developing such a strategy in an explicit, methodical fashion is the first step to tapping into this valuable talent pool. Here are a couple of basic best practices to start you off on this effort:
Make Use of HR Technology
HR tech is ideal for keeping track of former employees and nurturing your relationships with them. Brian Westfall, senior market researcher for Software Advice, comments that it's easy to add departing employees to an applicant tracking system. From there, human resources can keep them in the loop with newsletters and updates, track any contacts they have with your company, and recontact them when their skills fit a current opening.
Assist With Personnel Adjustments
One issue to keep in mind is that if someone has been gone for a while, former colleagues may have moved into managerial roles, and that takes some conscious adjustments on everyone's part. It's good to go over any such changes with the rehired employee before their first day back at your company.
The process of re-hiring boomerang employees is gaining in popularity. Due partly to the penchant of millennials to move from one job to another, and partly to the outright shortage of talented workers, a workplace study of 1,800 HR professionals found that 76 percent of employers have become more open to the idea of rehiring former employees. To explore more approaches to recruiting and retaining the most talented people, access our e-book "How to Incentivize the Modern Workforce."