By Francis Dunleavy, Operations Director at Worldwide Recruitment Solutions (WRS) Ltd.
This is the number of HR professionals who in recent study stated that they are more likely to employ ‘boomerang employees’ now, than they would have been in the past. Of course, it is always worth greeting any statistic with caution; but thanks to the job indiscrimination championed by the millennial generation, the number of workers across all industries leaving their job after only two years rather than 15 is higher now than ever before. But a change of scenery brings no guarantee of increased career or life satisfaction. And like fashion rebirths and rock band reunions, returning employees could fulfil a craving at a certain time.
However, if you’re an employer, is it worth permitting a former employee back into the fold if/when they apply? What messages could this send to the workforce? We have listed some of the important pros and cons that rehiring an alumnus over a fresh but unknown candidate could entail.
Familiarity and Solidarity: Hiring back a previous employee obviously returns to the workforce somebody who has a knowledgeable grasp of the company’s culture, ethos, and work ethic; what’s more, it’s unlikely that the boomerang will require much training, saving time and energy for others. Conversely, hiring a fresh, unknown new member involves research by your internal recruitment team, and that research is hindered by blind spots. A sound CV and two/three painless meetings might not portray a rounded picture of the person you’re considering adding into your workforce—are they worth the gamble over a past success?
Confidence and Performance: Your boomerang left to pursue a new challenge, and to develop themselves professionally and personally in a new environment; this is likely to have borne fruit for you the employer should you choose to rehire them. What new skills have they learned; are there pain points in your business that could now be remedied? Do they now have their own customers/networking contacts that could bolster your company? Remember, if a boomerang is prepared to return, the challenges and benefits of your business are being valued.
If the boomerang’s personality qualified your workforce in a pro-active manner before they left, it might do the same again. Their familiarity to the existing workforce will mean that prior relationships can be resumed and strengthened. The boomerang’s interest in returning might also indicate that they believe any issues they had during their first stint in your employ have been addressed by you. Furthermore, an employee willing to revert to your company could also send out a luminous unspoken message to the work force: the place to be is here.
Savings and Morale: In addition to the saved training time, sourcing back a past employee (with increased skills and knowledge, no less) could likely save you substantial fees otherwise spent hiring an unknown candidate.
Cons/Points for Consideration
Questionable Loyalty: As an employer, you would be remiss to simply presume that because a boomerang employee has returned to your business after some time away developing their personal and professional skills, that their loyalty to your business and its values is now unbreakable. The Millennials have affected huge statistical change upon the landscape of job tenure, with graduates of the last decade averaging almost 3 jobs in their first 5 years. Be shrewd. Rehiring the already-skilled and trained boomerang could be of great benefit to your business and the team morale in the short term, but how long will they stick around, and could their stint away inspire the same in others? Of course, the flip side is that hiring a brand new employee doesn’t obviate the flight risk, since there is no evidence that job-hopping is waning.
Who is benefiting?: It’s basic logic that if a former employee’s tenure ended badly then they are unlikely to want to return. If you are looking to rehire someone, or they are interested in returning to your business, clearly the potential for a healthy working relationship remains; this is vital since it is becoming more common practice for a company to retain salubrious ties with its alumni than ever before. But the problem here is one of benefit. While your rehired boomerang does not require training, and can settle into the company culture comfortably, does their return suggest that something in your business is missing? Is your business strong at developing new blood, and offering great opportunities for skilled veterans, while lacking a sense of progression for the mid-career worker? Why did the boomerang leave your company? Are there actionable steps that could prevent this in the future?
In conclusion, ultimately every scenario regarding a boomerang employee is different; but generally, it is about balancing the weight of the boomerang’s flight risk and the psychological spin of their return to your workforce, versus the very quantifiable advantages of bringing back a team member whose skills, training, and work ethic are already known to you. Add in the potential for the boomerang being able to offer newly-acquired customers and contacts and your business would likely benefit in the short term; and who knows, maybe their job-hopping was just a phase!
Top tip! Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, departing on hostile terms; when he returned in 1997…well, the rest, as they say, is history.