The Boomerang Employee Phenomenon

HR & Safety

There’s a new type of candidate circling the hiring pool: the boomerang employee.
In the first study released in the Employee Engagement Series commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and, survey data shows a changing mindset about hiring boomerang employees, i.e., workers who left an organization, for whatever reason, and then rejoined that same organization at a future date.
In the national survey of more than 1,800 HR professionals, people managers, and employees, responses show that employee engagement should not end once the working relationship is over— especially between high-performing alumni and organizations with a strong corporate culture.
However, this era of the boomerang employee creates a unique type of competition for job seekers and new challenges for organizations to maintain relationships with former high-performers.
Study Findings
1. Organizations and workers are coming around on boomerang employees.

  • Based on survey results, nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees—even if the employee left in good standing—but 76% say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past. Managers agree, with nearly two-thirds saying they are more accepting of hiring back former colleagues.
  • While only 15% of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, nearly 40% said they would consider going back to a company where they previously worked.
  • Looking deeper, 46% of Millennials would consider returning to their former employer, compared to 33% of Gen Xers and 29% of Baby Boomers. In an era where job-hopping amongst young professionals has become the norm, this could suggest that Millennial employees might be leaving organizations too soon.

2. Boomerangs are creating increased—and unexpected—competition for job seekers as the hiring market continues to improve.

  • In the past five years, 85% of HR professionals say they have received job applications from former employees, and 40% say their organization hired about half of those former employees who applied.
  • This high hiring rate is not surprising, since HR professionals (56%) and managers (51%) say they give high or very high priority to job applicants who were former employees that left in good standing.
  • Conversely, only 6% and 9%, respectively, said they give zero priority to former colleagues.
  • Boomerangs are not the only type of job seeker adding increased competition, as 75% of HR professionals say that customers have also applied for positions at their organization, with 60% saying they have hired at least one former customer.

3. Familiarity, easier training, and knowledge of employer are benefits for both boomerangs and organizations—yet some concerns still linger.

  • HR professionals (33%) and managers (38%) agree that familiarity with the organization’s culture is the biggest benefit to hiring back former employees, while nearly one-third appreciate that boomerangs do not require as much training as a brand new employee.
  • When employees were asked for the top reason they would go back to work for a former employer if pay was comparable, employee benefits and better career path tied for the number one response (20% each). However this answer varied greatly by generation.
  • But while the overall acceptance of boomerang employees has changed direction, HR professionals and managers still have concerns. Nearly one-third of HR professionals and managers claim boomerang employees have a stigma hanging over their heads that they might leave again, and more than one-quarter say these employees may have the same baggage they originally left with.

4. HR says they have a strategy for maintaining relationships with former employees, but workers and managers disagree.

  • While organizations appear increasingly more accepting of boomerang applicants, 80% of employees say former employers do not have a strategy in place to encourage them to return, with 64% saying there appears to be no strategy for maintaining a relationship.
  • Nearly half of managers say their organization has no alumni communication strategy.
  • HR practitioners, on the other hand, say they use several strategies for keeping in touch with former high-performing employees, including email newsletters (45%), recruiters (30%), and alumni groups (27%).
  • Facebook is the platform of choice for alumni groups according to HR professionals (42%), with email (39%) and LinkedIn (33%) close behind.

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