Ever hear of people leaving an organization to return months or years later? Seems odd, right? It’s not as uncommon as you may think. According to a Workplace Trends study, 15% of employees have “boomeranged” back to a former employer. These employees, aptly labeled “boomerang employees,” leave for a period of time before returning to the organization. Are they a consideration in your talent pool? They should be! These candidates are definitely worth keeping in your talent community as passive talent for the potential of a rehire, as well as referrals.
A job seeker survey from YouGov Plc indicates 55% of Americans are currently or actively looking for a new job in the next 12 months. And that’s just active job seekers. And LinkedIn research shows 85% of both active and passive job hunters are open to new job opportunities. After all, employees may decide the grass isn’t always greener on the other side after all — and that’s OK! I would know, because I'm a boomerang employee myself.
I returned to WilsonHCG for the opportunity to shape the operational delivery team. The great experience I had previously working here made it an easy decision for me to return when the opportunity presented itself. Between the culture and incredibly inspiring leaders, I'm glad to be back — as it aligns with my personal values and beliefs!
That said, you may be wondering how to attract boomerang employees? And why would you want to do so to begin with? We're going to cover the benefits of having boomerang employees return to your business, how to engage these candidates and ways you can reduce turnover in the first place.
15% of employees have boomeranged back to a former employer.
Why rehire boomerang employees?
With the continued global skills shortage, time is of the essence more than ever when it comes to finding the right candidates. Many employers are desperate to reduce time-to-hire and speed through onboarding – because they need to talent to start contributing... yesterday. Fortunately, boomerang employees are a viable solution for both.
Boomerang employees are already familiar with your organization’s culture, making them quick to onboard and integrate. The turnaround time for training is lessened greatly, providing valuable resources toward tasks that may have taken longer to get ramped up for an employee unfamiliar with the industry and people. In fact, the above study also indicated 33% of HR professionals and 38% of managers agree that already being familiar with the organization’s culture and having fewer training needs are the biggest benefits to hiring back former employees.
Know the reasons employees leave
In the past, bad management is a common reason for employees to leave for greener pastures, but the pandemic has shaken this figure up — pointing to burnout and stagnated pay as catalysts for departing a career or switching industries:
Burnout: A 2021 Monster.com poll showed 95% of US workers were considering leaving their jobs, with burnout being the No. 1 reason for one-third of those surveyed, followed by a lack of growth opportunities at 29%.
Lack of flexibility: 73% of workers surveyed in a Microsoft report want flexible remote work options. There’s a clear need here for employers to accommodate hybrid workspaces to ensure employees’ comfort and safety.
Underappreciation: 63% of employees surveyed by Bonusly.com indicated being recognized regularly means they are less likely to look for a new job.
Of course, these are new challenges on top of out-of-touch management, a lack of transparency and low salary or pay. Many millennials have felt it necessary to job hop in order to get promotions and learn new skills. A study from IBM indicates of one in five workers who switched jobs in 2020, 33% were gen Z and 25% were millennials. Employers must stay in touch with employees to avoid feelings of disengagement and stagnation, which bring about burnout. This is especially true for returning employees, who will recognize these signs faster.
We asked a few of our own boomerang employees what incentivized them to return to the company. Here’s what one said that we felt encompassed our culture well:
“One of the biggest factors that played a role in my decision to return was the level of ability to make an impact and influence change at WilsonHCG. There is something so special here you don’t find at many companies. We’re encouraged and empowered to put forward our ideas, they’re listened to, evolve and are implemented (without a whole bunch of red tape). I’ve often heard John Wilson, our CEO, say, ‘every single thing we do here started as someone’s idea,’ and it’s true. We, as employees, are given the opportunity to innovate and shape the future of our company every single day.”
How to position yourself as an employer of choice for boomerang employees
Reducing voluntary turnover is essential as record job openings continue. Do this by positioning your organization strategically — this is key for attracting and retaining top talent, especially boomerang talent. Here’s how you can take steps to reduce turnover and ensure your employees feel both loyal and engaged after returning:
Prioritize work-life balance: Mental health is a top priority for many HR and TA leaders, largely from burnout working remotely due to the pandemic. Communicate you respect team members logging off and taking time to rest and recharge — it goes a long way toward employee loyalty.
Consider unlimited PTO or a vacation stipend: Encourage your employees to use their allotted PTO through an unlimited policy or vacation stipend. Sometimes employees feel like they can’t get away without coming back to a full desk, so do the extra legwork to ensure they feel covered when they’re out. It will ease worries and empower them to take days when they want.
Invite leavers to join an alumni network: Engage with employees who have left and show your support for their growth. Consider a parting gift to help them on the next leg of their career. It shows you care about them as a person, not just an employee. Hosting meetups (virtual or otherwise) will allow you to check in on how they’re doing.
Encourage leaders with mentorships: Leaders that mentor will most likely have a higher number of returnees. Mentoring is valuable to an organization since it helps build long-lasting relationships that bond employees with their leaders.
Implement employee well-being programs: Start a wellness committee or a newsletter to reward health initiatives. Whether it’s giving employees a day to volunteer or participate in a walk to raise funds for a cause, give them the freedom to pursue those passions while also prioritizing health.
Listen to feedback through an offboarding program and actively integrate: Listening goes a long way when seeking ways to improve. It also helps employees know their time at the organization was valued. If you’re not sure where to start, consider an exit interview or a regular pulse survey to get feedback on what employees want more of from the organization. You’ll then be able to gather intelligence and patterns in order to catch trends that may be leading to people leaving en masse. The key here, though, is to implement it speedily so employees know they’re being heard.
Adjust your employee value proposition (EVP) to reflect new perks: Your departed employees may not be aware of new perks you’ve added. Whether it’s a referral or they’re applying through a previous contact, be sure your job descriptions list all the benefits. This is especially useful if they’re looking to compare how you’ve improved the employee experience from their prior employment.
Launch employee resource groups (ERGs): Having a sense of community in your workplace helps with bonding and trust. ERGs help foster inclusivity and help employees have a place they belong and can relate to others. It’s also a great way to have a culture that not only embraces – but encourages – differences.
Promote from within: If you’re always hiring outside the organization for high-level positions, your current employees may feel stuck. This will lead to job searching elsewhere for the opportunity to grow. Keep your employees by actively nurturing them and encouraging them to pursue interests. They will bring the benefits back to the business! Don’t overlook the opportunity to move your top performers around unilaterally in the business either, as this will help them gain new skills and continue growing their careers.
If you found this helpful, consider our additional resource on having a successful employee referral program. It’s all about constant improvement and acting on your initiatives to encourage diversity and growth within the business.
Lee White is the director of strategic sourcing in EMEA at WilsonHCG. Located in the United Kingdom, Lee takes great passion in shaping our daily strategic sourcing and operational delivery team initiatives. Above all, he empowers the people at WilsonHCG to succeed at every step of the recruitment process.