Boomerang employees: Why businesses should consider rehiring former employees

recruiting talent boomerang employees

As the long-term impacts of the Great Resignation of 2021 continue to play out, and we fight to address skill shortages caused by accelerated demand for tech skills, border closures and international travel bans, a new trend is emerging: boomerang employees. 

Recent LinkedIn data shows 4.5% of new hires in 2021, were boomerang employeesemployees returning to previous employers after a period of absence — compared to just 3.9% in 2019. LinkedIn itself has embraced boomerangs internally, with the site, “doubling the number of new hires who were also former employees … since 2019″.

People leave jobs for a variety of reasons. But how much do we know about why people would choose to come back to a company they’ve worked for previously? At ARQ Group, in the 2020-21 period around 10% of our 160-odd new hires are boomerang employees, so we’re definitely building a clear picture of some of the benefits of rehiring former employees, and why they choose to return.

1. The grass isn’t always greener

People may be lured away for a paycheque, but they come back for culture. COVID-19 removed the geographical boundaries that prevented people from applying for remote roles, leading to many people pursuing them, only to find that the grass was not actually greener elsewhere.

Lockdowns and remote working meant that company culture didn’t matter as much as it once had — but post-lockdown it’s what matters most. What does the organisation really stand for? What are its values? What does their ‘flexible workplace’ look like in practice? As companies return to more regular programming, poor cultures are being exposed so staff are returning to companies they know and trust.

2. They bring in new experiences/knowledge

If an employee has been loyal and motivated over a period of time, but has been presented with a new opportunity elsewhere, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be supported in going for it and welcomed back if they decide to return.

In my experience at ARQ, these employees bring back new experience that the whole team can learn from, which makes us a better organisation. Sometimes they’ll actually gain experience more quickly by moving on, especially if they leave to work client-side or with a competitor.

Likewise, entrepreneurial spirits should be encouraged to spread their wings! One of our boomerang employees left ARQ to go and work in a startup. When the startup faltered, we welcomed him back with open arms. In his five years away, his knowledge had advanced, and his leadership and management skills had developed 10-fold, meaning  he was able to  return to a much more senior position.

3. The concept of workplace flexibility has evolved

In a short space of time, the concept of workplace flexibility has transformed the types of roles organisations are able to offer. Employees who may have left roles due to wanting or needing greater flexibility can now be integrated in a way they simply haven’t been previously.

More workplaces are recognising that measuring success via performance and output, rather than hours at a desk, is a great way to diversify the appeal of roles you’re recruiting for. The broader the appeal, the better quality the applicants.

4. Other companies oversell and under deliver

We see lots of employees being promised the world by prospective employers with no follow through. Companies will oversell themselves to win new business, which impacts staff who are then working 12, 14, 16-hour days to deliver on false promises. 

Impact is another area that gets massively oversold by employers luring employees away from existing roles. Everyone says that they make an impact — whether it be charity work, or other community causes — but who’s actually doing it? Employees and investors alike are seeking to do business with companies that take social impact seriously.

5. An opportunity to bring back proven workers, quickly

Former employees give employers the opportunity to fill gaps in the jobs market quickly. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t interview them, but boomerang employees already know the ins, outs and nuances of your business. They have an understanding of your expectations, so even if they are being hired for a different role, the learning curve for them is going to be smaller than for brand new employees, which should make their onboarding easier, and faster.

If the last few years have told us anything, it’s that everything changes so quickly. People change, your company changes, environments change. The most important consideration for any potential boomerang rehire is Do you value them as a person? If you’re bringing someone back that you’ve known before, their work ethic and personality haven’t changed. Trust your instincts.

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