If you asked HR professionals 30 years ago if they’d rehire a former employee, you’d likely hear a resounding, “NO.” But as employee tenure changes (workers only stay with a job for about four years) the idea of rehiring a former employee, otherwise known as a boomerang employee, has become much more appealing. HR professionals should weigh the pros and cons before rehiring an employee.

What is a Boomerang Employee?

Boomerang employees are workers who leave a company and then come back to either fill their last or a new position. Boomerang employees typically first left their jobs voluntarily, instead of being laid off, furloughed or fired. Why they initially left could point to how long they’ll stay when they return.

Boomerang employees who leave for relatively positive reasons such as to continue their education, change careers, a move or to stay home with children, are more likely to perform the same when they return, according to a study by Harvard Business Review (HBR). But those who left due to negative reasons: poor performance or bad relationship with manager or coworkers, usually don’t improve their performance when they return. HBR found behavior was consistent before and after rehiring, reducing the probability of a good “second chance” story.

HBR also found that boomerang employees who leave the company a second time, usually do so for the reasons they departed in the first place, making boomerang employees predictable, which may not necessarily be a bad thing. Many HR managers might appreciate having this type of insight about an employee.

Pros and Cons of Rehiring a Former Employee

Pros:

Reduced training costs. One of the biggest arguments for upskilling or reskilling your current workforce is reduced training costs. The same could be said for rehiring former employees. The cost for onboarding and training a new employee is estimated to be around $4,000, due to the amount of time and resources involved in recruiting, hiring and training. Many of those costs can be eliminated when a former employee is rehired.

Prior understanding of company culture. Company culture is one of the most deciding factors of employee retention. Simply put, employees will leave a company if they don’t like its culture and repeated turnover will cost you. According to SHRM, over the last five years, turnover due to workplace culture cost companies $223 billion. Boomerang employees already know and understand your company culture, reducing the likelihood they’ll leave because of it.

Managers already know their value. There is something to be said about the devil you know. When an employee is rehired, the manager has insight into work style, expectations and personality. There is also the opportunity to evaluate them beyond references and work experience.

Provides a positive message to current employees. In an employee-centric environment, even the most loyal employee might think the grass looks greener on the other side. Regardless of what drew them away in the first place: an exciting opportunity, more money, starting a family, what brings them back says a lot about them. In some ways, coming back to a previous employer can be humbling, but if they have a new perspective about the value of working for you, it’s good for current team members, too. Current employees get the message that your company is worth coming back to.

Cons:

Decreased performance over time. Boomerang employees’ performance tends to decrease once they become comfortable again, according to HBR. The study found that internal and external hires outperformed boomerang employees after the first year.

Boomerang employees will eventually leave again. HBR found turnover was higher in boomerang employees vs. both internal and external hires. Leaving once says to managers and HR that the boomerang employee could easily leave again, especially if the factors or reasons still exist that caused the employee to leave in the first place.

Old problems still exist. Just because the employee went away for a while, doesn’t mean they are coming back a completely new person. If a potential rehire didn’t get along with co-workers or managers who are still on the team, look out. Inviting a combustive relationship back into the workforce can be bad for employee morale as well as the returning prospect.

Your company has changed. Today’s companies are throwing out old policies and crafting new to allow more employees to work remotely, increase diversity and stub out sexual harassment. While this change is great, a boomerang employee could return to a working environment that is now foreign. If personalities resist change, the road back could be bumpy. All new employees–returning or not–need to be ready to adapt to new business expectations.

Steps to Rehiring a Boomerang Employee

Before rehiring a boomerang employee, be sure to do your due diligence. HR Daily Advisor suggests following these steps:

Take time to have new conversations with the employee and their former employer. You may already know this employee, but people and their circumstances change. Perhaps the employee is in the process of obtaining an advanced degree or certification. That could be great for your company, as it brings in new skills, but it could also entice the boomerang employee to move on if a better opportunity presents itself once again. The employee’s former employer can also share some valuable insight.

Go through the interview and onboarding processes again. Conducting a formal interview and then going through onboarding should still be part of the hiring process, even if the employee has done it before. The company, its managers and team members may all have changed since the boomerang employee was last employed. Going through these paces allows the company to really vet the employee, introducing or reinforcing new policies and making sure all compliance measures are re-met.

Interview questions to ask boomerang employees:

  1. What have you been doing since you left the company?
  2. What skills or capabilities have you learned since you left?
  3. Have you kept in touch with your former co-workers? What’s the relationship like? Good, bad?
  4. Why do you want to return to the company?

Gauge additional training needs. One of the advantages to rehiring a former employee is reduced training costs. If your company’s processes have evolved so much that the new employee wouldn’t recognize their old job, you’ll likely still have to spend the time training them, reducing the advantage hiring a boomerang employee brings.

Talk to your team. Hopefully some of your team members have been involved in the interview process but if not, be sure to inform everyone of the boomerang employee’s return. Let current coworkers know the hire is a positive one as the boomerang employee can hit the ground running, picking up their extra work quickly.

Having the right HR software can help in making the decision to rehire a former employee. A cloud-based system, like Arcoro’s, stores and tracks all employee information, including former workers’ information. Managers and HR can pull up completed trainings, performance reviews and more to accurately determine if hiring a boomerang employee would be a solid investment.

Further Reading: