What are boomerang employees, and how can they benefit your business?

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Illustration of a human hand holding a boomerang

The Great Resignation shook countless workplaces in 2021, however, it also created a brand new wave of job applicants – boomerang employees

Many companies now see former employees come back to their old workplace after some time away. Be it a realization that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, receiving a new offer from their old employers, or simply coming back after a much-needed time off, boomerang employees are increasingly becoming a “thing” in the wake of the pandemic. 

Why do workers choose to return to their previous workplaces? And what are the potential benefits of having a boomerang employee onboard? Keep reading to find out!

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What are boomerang employees?

Besides creating global havoc, the Covid-19 pandemic also delivered new social & work trends, with the Great Resignation being one of them. 2021 saw a record number of workers resigning as employees turned to rethink their career goals and choices in the light of the pandemic. 

The freedom of hybrid and remote work has widened the scope of job opportunities – we’re no longer tied to locations or time zones that impact our employment choices. However, after the first punch of the Great Resignation, the job market is already seeing a wave of former workers returning to their ex-workplaces – boomerang employees. Why so?

  • The new workplace isn’t a good fit.

The rising global demand for workers is a huge issue for employers, but it presents freedom of choice for employees. There are cases when workers decide to switch companies to explore what else is out there – not necessarily because they hate their current workplace but more out of curiosity. 

However, the grass may not always be greener on the other side, and understanding that the old workplace WAS a great fit isn’t uncommon. Thus, if the door is still open, employees choose to come back “home” – it’s the boomerang effect.

  • The old workplace now offers a better package.

One of the reasons employees chose to resign in 2021 was a desire for flexibility in both work settings and schedules. If a company didn’t offer that, workers quit. 

Now, when it’s clear that pandemic-induced workplace trends such as hybrid and remote work are the new normal, many companies have updated their employee compensation plans and employment conditions, allowing for the elements that were once desired by their ex-employees. 

As a result, offering the needed flexibility and other benefits lure workers that left a beloved yet undersupporting workplace into becoming boomerang employees.

  • New development opportunities in a well-known environment.

No matter how well a company pays its employees and what benefits it provides, if it doesn’t offer growth opportunities, workers may seek development elsewhere. 

A boomerang employee Marie Krebs who left a beloved workplace due to a lack of growth opportunities, says:

Development should be your success metric when it comes to talent. And you might not be able to provide that development in-house.

After some time away, Marie learned that her previous workplace had grown and now offered her the much-desired opportunities to learn new things and work towards the company’s new goals. So, Marie happily boomeranged to the workplace she once had left yet still loved.

The benefits of boomerang hiring

Two people talking

While reuniting with your ex isn’t always a good idea, it’s slightly different with boomerang employees. Here are a few reasons why employers should consider boomerang employment. 

Boomerang workers can save you resources

Hiring someone completely new is exciting, plus they’re a fresh breeze to your company culture. However, training a new employee can be time-consuming, and there’s always a chance of it not working out in the end due to a variety of reasons. 

An employee who’s already worked for your company comes with some level of “insurance”. Even if they apply for a completely different position, you’ve already seen their overall performance and have a notion of what you can expect. 

Therefore, boomerang employees will likely need less time to onboard, get up to speed in their new role, and be easier to communicate with, which can save you resources.

Boomerang employees are a perfect blend of familiarity and revitalization

A former employee knocking at your door after some time spent in another field or organization is a fantastic opportunity to hire someone you trust AND someone with new knowledge that can be now applied to your business.

Employers often think that seeing a dedicated employee leave is nothing but sad. However, rather than focusing on the sad part, you should clarify that you’re open to rehiring if they’re interested in returning.

If you want your people’s best work while they are with you, make sure they know the door is open for them to leave and pursue their growth.

-Marie Krebbs

Suppose you hang on tightly to workers wanting to pursue growth in other places. In that case, you hinder their development and rule out any chance that they may return to you with fresh knowledge and benefit your business. 

So, if a former employee knocks at your door after some time spent in other fields or organizations, know that it could be a tremendous growth opportunity for your company.

Job boomerang can attract new talents

People chatting at work with masks on, potential boomerang employees hire

A returning customer is one of the best quality signs of any brand. Moreover, if they return after trying out products or services of another company – even better, as it indicates that their initial product choice wasn’t defeated. 

The same can be applied to boomerang employees – they serve as a quality sign for new job applicants. 

Workers usually don’t return to a hated workplace if they have other job options, right? So, hearing that somebody has rejoined a company after working elsewhere pretty much indicates that the company is a good place to work.

In times when attracting new talent is hard, being a business that ex-employees return to is a considerable advantage, which, wisely played, can only add to your value as a potential employer.

Final remarks on boomerang employees

“This all sounds great, but what can I do to attract boomerang employees in the first place?” you may ask.

First and foremost, treat them right when they leave. People may forget the little things from their work experience, but they’ll surely remember the farewell. Going Gatsby and throwing them a posh goodbye party or just sincerely wishing all the best and giving a nice recommendation letter – it’s up to you. But no matter what you do, swallow your pride and sadness and stick to an open-door policy for returnees. 

Even if they don’t become your boomerang employees, they’ll always be a source for talent recommendations and a part of word-of-mouth marketing for your company.

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