The Untapped Potential of Boomerang Employees

Key Takeaways:

  • In this tight labor market, there is value in rehiring past employees (boomerang employees).
  • 43% of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic believe they were better off in their old position.
  • Rehired employees are better able to: align with company culture, navigate processes, onboard quickly, and outperform a new hire. 
  • Leverage exit interview data to identify who might be a good candidate to return.

In today’s challenging economy and changing work environment, you may want to rethink your approach to recruiting. While many are still feeling the effects of the Great Resignation, consider the future potential of the Great Return, where employers hire back former employees. Replacing exiting workers costs one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. Assuming an average salary of $50,000, that replacement cost translates to between $25,000 and $100,000 per employee. These so-called boomerang employees might be the key to filling gaps in your talent pool while saving significant time and money.  

The potential advantages of rehiring may likely reverse whatever long-standing reservations or feelings that may exist around boomerang employees. Former employees already know the ins and outs of the job, making the transition more manageable from day one. Organizations save on the cost of searching, recruiting, selecting, training, and onboarding new employees. Research by UKG in 2022 found that 43% of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic believe they were better off in their old position. Other research shows nearly one in five people who quit their jobs since the pandemic have returned to their previous employers. 

Image of an office with the quote: "43% of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic believe they were better off in their old position."
The Advantages of Hiring Former Employees 

Boomerang employees are opportune candidates, especially if they left previously on good terms. There are key benefits to bringing former employees back into the organization. One reason is that it increases the size of your qualified applicant pool during the recruiting process. Data collected through our exit surveys indicates that in most cases, over 50% of preventable, voluntary exits say that they’d likely consider returning to the organization. In cases where there are especially tough-to-fill positions because of a unique combination of a required skill set, or a location that is particularly difficult to staff, opening your search to former employees significantly increases your pool of qualified candidates. 

In addition to increasing your candidate pool, another key benefit to rehiring a former employee is a reduction in training costs. Not only will a former employee move through interviews and onboarding more quickly, but the time spent on training will be significantly less. They are accustomed to your culture, know your processes and procedures, understand who the key points of contact are, and are familiar with your operating systems.  

Additional research from Cornell University, highlights some of the benefits an organization realizes with rehires. Boomerang employees are better able to: 

  • Align with the social systems and company culture. 
  • Navigate hierarchy and processes.  
  • Onboard faster and more effectively. 
  • Outperform a new hire (even those with better qualifications). 

Boomerang employees can also offer a fresh perspective on the organization when returning. They have had time away, gathered new experiences, and bring a new outlook with them.  

Ensuring a Successful Rehire 

Before you can successfully rehire former employees, it’s critical that you have a solid resignation recovery process in place. There are a few things you need to plan for and address prior to rehiring. On what terms did the employee leave on? Are their previous reasons now being addressed with the new role, or will they be a flight risk? Are their intentions for returning clear? 

Answering these questions, as well as understanding why they left originally, will drive the right re-entry process. This is where a third-party exit/rehire survey can be especially beneficial in gathering critical information and identifying who might be a good candidate to return.  

When recruiters are looking at rehiring a former employee, having exit data to work from gives them a way to engage in conversation by immediately addressing the reasons that person left, and what has changed since. For example, a person may have left due to a specific supervisor, but that manager may have since left the company. Or maybe you’re looking at rehiring this person in a completely different department. Exit data helps the recruiter find out whether the reasons a former employee left the company will still be issues in their new role, and if so, how to address them accordingly. That’s why it’s important to assess why they left and why they want to return, to make sure the move to return makes sense for everyone. 

In today’s tight labor market, tapping into your alumni network as a source of new talent is a savvy business strategy. Establish a solid resignation recovery process so that you have quality data to use as you re-engage with former employees. Keep track of former workers and maintain good relationships with them. Many former employees are willing to return to your organization after trying something new and perhaps realizing the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. For employers who care about hiring the right employees, there is a big opportunity here to welcome back former employees. 

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