Boomerang Employees: Two Perspectives on the Latest Talent Trend
The number of boomerang employees- people who leave their jobs and then return- is on the rise. One recent study found that 8% of people are now re-employed at the company they originally left. When employees want to return to their former organization, it’s often a sign of a strong internal culture. As RiseSmart’s Kimberly Schneiderman put it, “fostering a strong internal culture doesn’t simply impact employee retention rates—it can also inspire employees to return as boomerang employees.”
So, what makes an employee want to return to a company? Is it more than a strong culture? And what are the advantages for the company rehiring them? To find out, we sat down with Cassi, one boomerang employee in the social work field, and Kimberly, RiseSmart Practice Development Manager, to learn more.
Cassi is a social worker who has returned to a well-respected hospital organization three times. Although the number of times she has boomeranged, may be unique, her story of how she left and why she returned is very common.
The perspective of a boomerang employee
Cassi originally left a large hospital organization to pursue a new, higher-level role as a social services administrator at a nearby care facility. Although she had originally left to find a position that offered more upward growth, Cassi realized that she wanted to return to doing the work she was most passionate about. After three years as an administrator, Cassi learned of an opportunity to return to the large hospital organization, applied for the job, and was hired back.
One month later, that same organization experienced a downturn and Cassi was laid off. Following the layoff, with the help of RiseSmart career transition, she was able to totally rebrand herself. Because social work positions are scarce in her community, her RiseSmart coach helped Cassi to see how her social work skills could be applied to non-social work specific jobs and taught her how to network and use her connections to learn about potential job openings.
Recently, the hiring manager for Cassi’s position contacted her to let her know that a similar role to the one she left had become available and asked if Cassi would consider returning for a third time. Although she had just been offered a job as a result of her job search efforts, Cassi decided to boomerang once again. Cassi will soon be returning to the healthcare organization and is looking forward to the opportunity to work within an organization that has proven to be a great place to work for her.
Why did you want to return to your former employer?
Cassi: I really wanted to return to my former employer because of the excellent care that they provide to their clients. During my first time away, I was able to gain a better appreciation for the way that the company lives out its mission, vision, and values -- not only to the clients they serve, but to the community as well. It took leaving the organization to really understand why the unit I worked in was considered one of the best facilities in the area. I returned because I was drawn by the desire to be part of a team that upholds the highest standards of care and is always in line with best practices.
Being able to use my previous connections to contact my old manager when I heard a position was open was just an added bonus. Since I left on such good terms, I felt comfortable putting myself out there and was being honest in my interview about what I had learned while gone, and why I wanted to come back.
What are the greatest benefits of “going back”?
Cassi: The greatest benefit to going back was returning to the work culture that I had missed so much. It gives me pride to work for a place that puts so much emphasis on providing the best care possible and joy to work with so many qualified professionals.
When I returned the first time, my coworkers and management went out of their way to make me feel welcomed. In fact, I couldn't even get through the orientation tour without people running up to me and telling me how excited they were to work with me again. My manager and co-workers had even put a card on my desk with a big clock on it saying "It's about time you came back". It was such a warm welcome, it made me feel valued as an employee and as a person.
That same sense of community was true even during the layoff. On the days following my unexpected layoff, I had numerous co-workers contact me to offer their assistance with job referrals, food, and money for bills if I needed it. The concern for my well-being didn’t just last for a week or two. Even now, almost 4 months later, my past co-workers check in to see how I’m doing and wishing me the best. Having co-workers who are genuinely concerned for my well-being, was the one thing that solidified my decision to go back to work there again.
Why do you think your employer wanted to rehire you?
Cassi: I know that my manager wanted to rehire me based on my previous experience working there. When I left the first time to pursue other opportunities, I was confident that my manager was aware of my work ethic, my passion for social work, and my drive to provide the very best care available. At that time, I made sure I left on good terms to leave the door open in care I ever wanted or needed to return in the future. To ensure that I wasn’t creating a hardship by leaving, I gave the hospital an extended 6 week notice to give them ample time to find a qualified replacement.
The second time I left was due to a layoff and that day was dramatic, to say the least. Yet through the drama, I proactively connected with my manager to leave a positive, lasting impression. I didn’t blame her for what was, clearly, a business decision. I was glad at the time to receive a generous severance package which included outplacement services from RiseSmart.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was “don’t burn any bridges.” When I left my old job, I left on good terms and was intentional about ensuring that if I needed to come back, I could. I think how I handled the layoff and the character that shined through during the process gave me a leg up on landing the new role. It was also helpful that there are a number of boomerang employees on my team, including my manager. She shared with me that she likes hiring boomerang employees because she feels those returning have a deeper connect to the mission and have a vested interest in working to improve a place that they have chosen to work at again.
Did you feel more confident returning to a company you had already previously worked for?
Cassi: Going back a second time, I knew that I was much more experienced than when I had worked for the company originally. Over the course of the 3 years that I was gone, I had developed a broader skill set as I took on new responsibilities. I feel this made me a much more rounded social worker and more qualified than when I first worked at the organization. Knowing what was going to be expected of me gave me more confidence and assurance that going back to my originally employee was the right choice for me.
Looking back, are you glad you returned?
Cassi: Absolutely! I was very happy to return the second time around and I am excited to be returning now, for my third time. Being hired for the second time was great, but being hired for the third time, especially after being laid-off, made me feel like I earned this. I’m now returning to a role where I feel emotionally invested.
The perspective of the boomerang employer
Kimberly Schneiderman is a Practice Development Manager at RiseSmart. We asked her to provide her thoughts on the many advantages boomerang employees offer to organizations, as well as expectations organizations might have for boomerang employees.
Why do companies want to hire back employees who have previously left the company?
Kimberly: When boomerang employees return, they bring legacy knowledge with them. In other words, they already know what the company is about and are, on some level, already on board with its mission. This historical knowledge can jumpstart the boomerang employee in their new role and make the hiring and onboarding processes much easier.
And for every bit of institutional knowledge they possess, they likely walk in the door with new, relevant knowledge and skills. Assume that whatever they’ve been doing since they left your company, even if it was related to their personal life, has changed and evolved them in some way. Sometimes you get lucky and they even bring competitor knowledge with them!
Under what circumstances do these “hire backs” typically occur?
Kimberly: Employees leave a company for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they take on another job to invest in a particular growth area, other times their position was cut. If the employee left on good terms, it creates a possibility for a “hire back” at a future date.
Is there a particular level of employee that is most often hired back?
Kimberly: There is no particular level of employee that is most often hired back, but rather a “type” of employee. Employees who are hyper-focused on the mission of the organization and possess contagious enthusiasm for the work they did, and will do, for your company, are the type of folks who will likely return for round two.
What skills or experience do employers hope employees gain during their time away from the company?
Kimberly: When employees are away from the company, employers hope they are gaining new skills, or different approaches to solving problems. Sometimes, new perspectives and time away from the daily grind of working for an organization can actually inspire creativity and motivation. Think about when you’ve been staring at something you’ve written, coded, or created for too long. It all starts to blend together. When you take a step back, it becomes easier to approach the project under a new lens and finalize.
Is there a cost savings to hiring back employees who had previously left?
Kimberly: It’s typically cheaper, faster, and easier to train employees who had previously left. They might require a shorter learning curve than someone who is brand new on the job. In addition, they may also be able to re-establish relationships with coworkers and peers – and maybe even business partners and customers – quickly so work can get underway faster. Some studies have found that organizations spend around $1200 per employee on onboarding and training. Reducing this spend for multiple boomerang employees can begin to add up. And above all, minimizing training lessens the burden for the rest of the team.
How can boomerang employees affect the overall brand of a company?
Kimberly: When employees want to return to a company, it’s a sign of a strong cultural brand. This means that these employees, even before they returned to work for your organization, were probably saying positive things about your company. If the employee happens to hold a customer-facing role, they could end up telling prospects and professional networks a compelling story for the company and its employer brand. Customers and employees will most likely be inspired that a former employee came back to work for your organization because they love it so much!
Whether you’re an employee, jobseeker, or employer, you’re bound to experience the advantages of boomerang employees. While ‘going back’ used to hold a certain stigma for people who may have been perceived as not moving forward, the new boomerang economy has eliminated taboos associated with reestablishing employment with a company. In fact, boomerang employees are becoming a hot commodity for companies who can find those individuals who are in sync with the company’s mission and have gained new skills, training, and experience since initially separating from the company. For HR departments and companies looking for the best talent, boomeranging seems like a trend that is too good to be true.