What Is a Boomerang Employee? Definition and Considerations

What Is a Boomerang Employee? Definition and Considerations

In 2021, the Great Resignation marked an unprecedented mass exit of workers from the job markets, with over 47 million Americans voluntarily quitting their jobs.

Out of that number, 17% of workers who resigned have since returned to their old employers, shedding light on a growing phenomenon known as "boomerang employees."

The prevalence of boomerang employees represents a great opportunity for organizations that value maintaining positive connections with departing staff; these individuals may later return with enhanced skills, experiences, and perspectives.

On the other side of the coin, the boomerang phenomenon also poses challenges for organizations with respect to reintegrating and retention.

So, should your organization consider rehiring former employees? What are the pros and cons of boomerang employees, and how could they impact your organization’s dynamics?

We’ll answer all these questions throughout this article as we explore more about hiring boomerang employees.

Table of contents:

What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee is an employee who leaves a company and is later rehired in the same organization.

These employees may have left voluntarily, seeking new opportunities for career advancement, personal growth, or a change in work environment. Alternatively, they may have departed involuntarily due to factors such as layoffs, restructuring, or temporary circumstances.

Although many hiring managers are still reluctant to hire returning employees, boomerangs seem to be on the rise. According to a 2023 HBR report, 28% of “new hires” across organizations in a wide range of industries were in fact boomerang hires who had left the company within the last 36 months.

The pros and cons of boomerang employees

Boomerang employees can bring valuable insights and knowledge back into the company, but they can also create tension and resentment.

So, should you welcome back a familiar face or take a chance on fresh talent from outside the organization? Keep reading below as we weigh the pros and cons of each decision.

Pros

Bringing back a former employee can often prove to be a helpful strategic decision. Beyond saving on onboarding time and costs, returnees offer proven experience, familiarity, and immediacy.

A successful rehire may bring some or all of the following benefits:

Familiarity with company culture

Boomerang employees have a deep understanding of the company's values and work dynamics.

Their prior experience within the organization means they already understand internal communication norms, team structures, and decision-making processes.

This familiarity not only allows them to hit the ground running but also enables them to navigate the workplace with ease, anticipate potential challenges, and know who to reach out to for support.

Moreover, boomerang employees often have a network of former coworkers who can provide additional insights or assistance, further enhancing their ability to integrate seamlessly back into the company's operations.

Reduced onboarding and training time

Typically the onboarding period of a new hire lasts around six months, and it might even extend up to one year. This includes paperwork completion, technical training, and cultural integration.

However, in the case of boomerang employees, this onboarding time is slashed by more than half. Since boomerang employees are already familiar with the company's culture, policies, and procedures, their onboarding process can be significantly shorter. In many cases, it's streamlined to just a few weeks or days.

They often don't need to sit through endless orientation sessions or technical training. Instead, they can dive straight into their roles, rekindle old connections, and start making meaningful contributions almost immediately.

New skills and experiences

A great proportion of boomerang employees leave the company to gain additional experience and progress in their careers. This means they often bring back a treasure trove of valuable skills and fresh perspectives.

Exposure to different work environments and challenges can cultivate innovative thinking and problem-solving skills that are crucial in the workplace. Likewise, they may have acquired specialized knowledge or expertise that the company previously lacked, such as proficiency in new technologies or industry trends.

For example, a software engineer who gained experience at a tech firm renowned for its cutting-edge tools may return with ideas on process optimization and emerging technologies, which they can use to inspire their team to explore unconventional solutions.

Strengthened employee retention

When boomerang employees choose to come back,  a powerful message is sent to existing staff about the company's culture, values, and opportunities for growth.

Seeing former colleagues return can reassure current employees that the grass isn't always greener elsewhere. This realization can boost morale and confidence in their decision to stay with the company.

Boomerang hiring also fosters a sense of pride among workers in being associated with an organization that retains valued members and continuously invests in the development of its workforce.

Enhanced talent acquisition

When rehiring, alumni networks and professional platforms like LinkedIn can help hiring managers access a pre-vetted talent pool and save time on their search.

Staying connected with former employees through events, online communities, and social channels is essential for maintaining strong relationships and keeping them informed about new job opportunities within the company.

By tapping into these networks, human resources professionals can bypass the lengthy process of sourcing candidates from scratch and instead focus their efforts on qualified professionals, including former colleagues or subordinates.

Proven performance

Boomerang employees bring with them a proven history of performance within the company. In fact, studies show that returnees are higher performers when compared to their colleagues who are new hires.

Their past contributions provide valuable insight into their skills, capabilities, and cultural fit, minimizing the uncertainty often associated with onboarding new talent.

This reduces the risk of mismatches between required skills and actual job performance, leading to a faster ramp-up time and stronger overall integration.

Preexisting relationships  

Boomerang employees maintain connections with former colleagues, clients, and stakeholders, which can facilitate smoother collaboration and communication.

Their established networks can help expedite projects, resolve issues, and build trust within the team and external partners.

Cons

Despite the positives mentioned, bringing back boomerang employees can also have downsides. Let’s look at the cons in more depth:

Potential for resentment among team members

Reintegrating returning employees is not without its challenges. When boomerang employees return, existing team members may have concerns about whether the returning individual will receive preferential treatment or opportunities.

Additionally, concerns about the impact on team dynamics can arise if the returning employee disrupts established relationships or workflows within the team.

These concerns can lead to feelings of resentment, lowered morale, and decreased team cohesion if not addressed effectively. Moreover, unresolved conflicts or tensions within the team can create a toxic work environment characterized by gossip, cliques, and interpersonal conflicts.

Risk of repeating past mistakes

If boomerang employees leave the organization for thae second time, they often leave for similar reasons as their initial departure. Therefore, ignoring past problems risks setting the stage for the same issues to resurface, which wastes time and resources.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the circumstances leading to an employee's departure and understand how both the employee and the company have changed since then.

Open communication about past concerns builds trust and allows both parties to approach the future with honesty and prevent history from repeating itself. This may include revising policies or procedures, providing additional training or support, or fostering a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

Wage and role expectations

Returning employees often bring back valuable assets: honed skills, fresh perspectives, and proven experience. Naturally, they may seek higher pay or new management roles. In fact, returnees earn an average 25% more after being rehired.

However, granting exceptional benefits or exceeding salary brackets for returning employees can ripple through the organization, especially among existing team members who haven't left and returned.

Lack of enthusiasm

Another downside that comes with hiring returning employees is that they might be motivated by necessity, not enthusiasm. This lack of intrinsic drive can lead to complacency, hindering both individual and team performance.

The key to avoiding this scenario lies in understanding the true motivations behind a boomerang employee's return. Did they miss the company culture, seek career advancement, or simply need a new role due to external circumstances?

Reintegration challenges
Despite their previous employee experience with the organization, boomerang employees may still face challenges reintegrating into the company culture and adjusting to any changes that occurred during their absence.

They may feel like outsiders or experience difficulty connecting with old and new colleagues, which can hinder their productivity and sense of belonging.

Best practices for rehiring boomerang employees

According to the Workforce Institute, 65% of managers would take back top and moderate performers. Additionally, 16% of managers would hire any former staff, regardless of skill level.

However, before diving headfirst into a warm reunion, companies need to tread carefully. While past loyalty and familiarity offer advantages, ensuring a successful return requires a strategic and well-considered approach.

These best practices can help ensure a smooth rehiring process:

Thorough reevaluation process

  • Gain insight. Conduct exit interviews or an open discussion to understand why they left in the first place
  • Recognize new skills. Evaluate personal and professional growth since their departure.
  • Evaluate fit. Use interviews, reference checks, and skill assessments to gauge current capabilities and fit
  • Reference company goals. Ensure their return aligns with company policy and current talent needs
  • Identify opportunities for growth. Review any feedback or performance evaluations from their previous tenure to identify areas for improvement or growth opportunities

Clear communication of expectations

  • Dive into the fine print. Discuss salary, responsibilities, and any changes in team dynamics or company culture
  • Establish performance metrics. Set clear performance goals and expectations for their reintegration
  • Promote communication. Maintain open communication channels to address questions and concerns
  • Review their career trajectory. Encourage the returning employee to communicate their career path aspirations and development goals to ensure their expectations align with the opportunities available within the organization

Integration of new and old experiences from former employers

  • Create a plan. Design an onboarding plan that reintroduces them to the team and updates them on changes
  • Revisit company experience. Leverage their past knowledge and familiarity with company culture
  • Embrace their new skills. Encourage them to share new skills and perspectives gained elsewhere
  • Promote continued learning. Foster a culture of learning and adaptation to benefit from their diverse experiences
  • Introduce new opportunities. Provide opportunities for the returning employee to take on new challenges or projects that align with their updated skills and expertise

Support and mentorship

  • Create onboarding practices. Tailor their onboarding plan to reintroduce them to the team, update them on changes, and address any initial anxieties
  • Encourage teamwork. Pair them with a colleague to help them readjust, navigate the current company culture, and share knowledge
  • Have check-ins. Schedule regular meetings to discuss progress, address concerns, and offer guidance
  • Use company programs. Provide access to resources and support networks, such as HR or mentorship programs, to help the returning employee navigate any challenges they may encounter during their reintegration

Welcoming environment

  • Show enthusiasm. Organize a team welcome lunch or greeting card to show they're valued
  • Host team-building activities. Encourage participation in team-building activities to help them integrate seamlessly into the new team dynamics
  • Recognize their talent. Acknowledge and celebrate their achievements to boost morale and foster a positive work environment
  • Acknowledge their impact. Highlight past contributions and emphasize their positive impact on the team

Long-term career planning

  • Discuss their career trajectory. Engage in discussions about long-term career planning to align their aspirations with the organization's future needs
  • Provide opportunities for growth. Explore opportunities for career progression, advancement, or lateral moves based on their skills, interests, and potential contributions
  • Grow with them. Regularly revisit and revise career plans in collaboration with the employee to ensure they remain motivated, challenged, and fulfilled in their roles

Find reliable talent on Upwork

More and more companies are becoming receptive to the idea of bringing former employees back to the team, and it’s not without reason.

Boomerang workers bring back not only familiar faces but also fresh perspectives, valuable skills, and renewed enthusiasm. They require less onboarding, hit the ground running, and can act as mentors to current team members.

Of course, everything has its roses and thorns. Reintegrating returning employees can pose challenges, including potential resentment among current staff and negotiation difficulties related to higher pay or new roles.

Interested in exploring hiring a new or previous employee for a remote position? With a diverse pool of skilled professionals, Upwork helps you connect with top talent.

Heading

asdassdsad
Projects related to this article:
No items found.

Author Spotlight

What Is a Boomerang Employee? Definition and Considerations
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

Get This Article as a PDF

For easy printing, reading, and sharing.

Download PDF

Latest articles

X Icon
Hide