Have you heard of the growing phenomenon of boomerang employees? A boomerang employee is someone who initially leaves their position at your organization voluntarily. So, what’s so special about that? After going elsewhere, they choose to come back and work for you. 😇
Their return does show an impressive degree of loyalty!
As you can imagine, this an opportunity not to be missed in today’s talent war. It is highly advantageous to hire an employee who already knows your organizational ins and outs, and who returns brimming with motivation and higher loyalty and commitment… once they’ve realized how much they appreciate working with you.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- 3 simple steps to optimize a boomerang employee’s return to your company
- 16 questions to ask your returning employee before officially reinstating them in their job
Should you hire a boomerang employee?
I dare you to bring up the phenomenon of boomerang employees with other employers during a friendly chat. Like most people, you’ll soon find out that this topic is every bit as controversial as a political opinion. The reason is simple: when an employee leaves of their own accord, their departure often represents a substantial investment of time and money for the organization, particularly in terms of finding a replacement.
The idea of taking them back in might make some employers uncomfortable. To help you figure out where you stand on the issue, here’s an extensive list of the benefits and risks of hiring a boomerang employee.
- They already know the company
- They’re probably already committed to your organizational values
- They’re likely to integrate more quickly and easily
- They will need less training
- They will be coming back with new knowledge and skills
- They saw what was possible for them elsewhere and decided to come back to you, making them a more committed and loyal employee
- They can become an ambassador for their colleagues and for future talent you want to recruit
Nevertheless, there are also risks and pitfalls of hiring a boomerang employee.
- Old conflicts can resurface
- Boomerang employees may be reluctant to change
- Jealousy can set in if the boomerang employee returns with a better salary and working conditions than their co-workers
- They may have less than honest motivations, for example, if they only come back while they’re waiting to find something else, simply because it’s easier for them to do so
3 steps to optimize a boomerang employee’s return
So, you’ve taken the plunge and would like to welcome a former employee back to your team. Here are three steps to help you make the most of the situation:
- A return interview
- A streamlined but carefully thought-out onboarding process
- The employee’s transformation into an ambassador for your organization
1. Hold a return interview
If, as an employer, you’ve been reluctant in the past to rehire employees who have left your organization, I urge you to reconsider.
Perhaps you’re thinking that if the employee left, it was for good reason, which makes you doubt that their return will be a success. To put your mind at ease, arrange a return interview with your new employee 😛.
If you conducted an exit interview, review it beforehand and go over it with the employee.
Focus on the irritants listed during the interview and make sure you understand what has changed. Look for opportunities to improve things, on both sides.
A streamlined but meticulous recruitment process
An employee wishing to return to your company will have to go through certain stages of the recruitment process, but in a slightly simplified way, of course. Great! This means you won’t need to post the job, wade through applications, go through resumes and hold phone interviews.
This is like landing on the “ladder” square in snakes and ladders. Congratulations! You can move straight to the interview. 🎲🐍
You probably already know the employee in question, and they likely know you too. But this may not be the case, for example, if you joined the company after the employee had already left.
Either way, a return interview is highly recommended.
It will be an opportunity to ask the right questions about their previous experience, their reasons for returning, and their new skills and knowledge.
15 questions to ask during a return interview
- Why did you (or do you still) want to leave your current job?
- How come you’ve decided to come back to our organization instead of looking elsewhere?
- Do you think the irritants (if there were any) you used to experience will be gone now?
- How do you plan to deal with these irritants on a daily basis?
- Why do you want to come back in spite of these irritants?
- Do you have different expectations after leaving and seeing something different?
- Have you learned anything from your experience?
- What is your greatest professional achievement since leaving the company?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Do you plan to change any behaviors or attitudes in this new experience?
- How do you see your career over the next few years?
- Have your career ambitions changed? If so, can you elaborate?
- Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?
- What would you say to someone interested in our organization?
- What do you think of the broader employee experience at our organization?
- Have you seen any interesting practices elsewhere that you’d like to share with us?
2. Plan your boomerang employee’s return with care
If you’ve decided to hire back an employee who’s been part of your team before, it must be because they were appreciated (at least, we certainly hope so 🤪). So they should be a welcome addition to your team.
Present this return as good news to your staff. To prevent jealousy or questions from other employees, be proactive and clear. At a minimum, explain the context of the boomerang employee’s departure and return. Make yourself available to clarify any grey areas and answer questions.
Onboarding, even for a returning employee
Take the time to celebrate your employee’s return. We’ve often mentioned the importance of the onboarding process—a returning employee is no exception.
A classic “welcome meal” is still suitable for the circumstances. Why? First, to have some interaction between the new colleague and the rest of the team, and second, to let the newcomer know they are welcome.
Unless the employee has only been away for a few weeks, don’t neglect their training. Take the time to review the company’s mission, values and internal procedures. This will be even more important if any changes have taken place at the company.
3. Turn the boomerang employee into an ambassador
An employee’s return is a golden opportunity for you. It would be a shame not to make the most of their renewed motivation and loyalty.
Coming back to your organization is a second chance for both you and your new employee. 😉
It’s important to identify the differentiating factors that made the boomerang employee want to rejoin your team. These aspects are probably inherent to your employer brand, and your organization should capitalize on them.
How can a boomerang employee become an ambassador?
To make your boomerang employee an ambassador for the company, set up a meeting between the former employee and the rest of the immediate team. At this meeting, the boomerang employee can discuss their experience with colleagues in greater depth. This is an opportunity to unite team members and strengthen their bond.
Next, with their agreement, you can tell their story on social media or in a blog post, with a focus on how grateful you are that this employee has chosen you again. After all, this experience speaks volumes about your openness as well as the employee experience you have to offer.
Boomerang employees: an asset for your team and your employer brand
As we’ve seen, a boomerang employee is someone who has chosen you because they’ve been genuinely won over by your company. They hold the potential to inspire co-workers to higher levels of loyalty and motivation. So, it’s important to do everything you can to optimize their return… and to make sure you hold on to that employee!
Have you ever had a boomerang employee? I’d love to hear about your experience. 😊