Quick look: No manager ever wants to lose a great worker, especially in today’s tight labor market. More Americans are leaving their jobs than ever before, and research shows that even fewer are sticking with their new roles. A bright spot in what is known as “The Great Reshuffle” is your workplace may see a few more familiar faces, as many employers are welcoming back boomerang employees.
“Should I stay, or should I go now?” is more than just musing from Joe Strummer and The Clash. It’s a question many employees have asked themselves over the last two years, as roughly 47.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs. And the labor market is still going strong. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022, many of whom left their roles for the promise of a better one with higher pay, more seniority, or additional flexibility.
However, a staggering number of employees are experiencing “quitter’s remorse” and are returning to the original jobs they left. These workers are known as boomerang employees, and while they may have left during The Great Resignation, they are now coming back to former companies in droves as part of The Great Reshuffle.
Here, we’ll review how business leaders can assess the potential benefits (and potential drawbacks) of rehiring employees and discuss how the HR experts at a professional employer organization (PEO) can help small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) recruit from their alumni network of former employees.
What are boomerang employees?
Boomerang employees are workers who voluntarily leave an organization and then choose to come back.
There are many reasons why an employee may leave their company, including:
- A higher position, better pay, or more advancement opportunities elsewhere
- Better employee benefits or flexible work hours
- An interest in continuing education or the desire to learn more skills
- Switching careers or industries all together
- To focus on health or medical conditions
- A major life event like getting married or becoming a parent or caregiver
But, as the name implies, boomerang employees come back. According to LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Report, these workers accounted for 4.3% of hires in 2021, up from 3.9% in 2019, The Wall Street Journal stated.
Often these workers realize the grass isn’t always greener and regret leaving their former employer. Maybe they discover their new jobs aren’t the right fit, or simply feel they’re ready to return to work after a career break… whatever the reasons are, boomerang rehires are a great source of talent.
Benefits of welcoming back boomerang employees
There are many incentives to rehire former employees—starting with saving time and money. The average cost of hiring and onboarding a new employee is about $4,000, according to Glassdoor. This number doesn’t include the soft costs of decreased productivity, reduced employee morale, impacts on company culture, and lost expertise. But welcoming back a boomerang rehire can help soften this blow.
Ex-employees likely need less time to onboard and train, and businesses can also cut down on the money spent on recruiting and interviewing. Plus, these workers are already familiar with the company, the people, the products, and the processes so it’s much easier to reintegrate them into the organization.
Boomerang employees may also return with more experience and skills (and sometimes, even new customers). These workers can also be more productive and engaged, are likely to stay longer than first-time hires, and know the job functions and expectations.
Rehiring an ex-employee is also an effective retention and employer branding strategy. What better testimonial than an employee who has left and chosen to return? It signals to clients, current employees, and prospective candidates that your organization is an attractive place to work.
There are benefits for the returning employee, too. A boomerang employee may be able to negotiate a higher position, more flexibility, or a greater salary (after all, a major reason why people leave jobs is for more compensation).
Potential drawbacks of boomerang employees
But still, employers should tread lightly. It’s unlikely that an employee would return to the organization if they were dissatisfied with their entire experience, but there is a reason why they left in the first place. Maybe the employee left on bad terms and have the potential to negatively impact company culture, maybe they’ve been gone for too long and it won’t be as seamless as everyone hoped, or perhaps they may not even be qualified for the role anymore.
Whatever the scenario, companies should do their due diligence on why the worker initially left, and leverage the recruiting and HR experts at a PEO.
Developing an effective rehire strategy
Recruiting a boomerang employee is a bit different than recruiting a new hire, and many SMB employers lack the internal resources to do so. Partnering with a PEO enables SMB leaders to level up their recruiting immediately. Some PEOs, like ExtensisHR, offer full-service recruiting services included at no additional charge.
The recruiting experts at a PEO can help optimize the process of rehiring former employees, reduce potential drawbacks, and create a comprehensive strategy, including:
Potential rehires should be interviewed to ensure they’re still the right fit for the role. Recruiting professionals at a PEO can manage the entire interview process, set expectations on both sides, and create tailored questions specifically for boomerang employees, such as:
- What have you been doing since you left the organization?
- Why are you interested in coming back?
- Have you increased your skillset or capabilities?
- Are there any unresolved issues with former coworkers or the company as a whole?
While boomerang employees tend to need less onboarding, things may have changed since the former employee left—even if was just for a short period of time. A PEO partner can help manage the reboarding process, while getting the employee reacquainted with the company, verifying all paperwork is completed and employee files are updated, and ensuring the employee undergoes orientation and training as needed.
Providing applicant tracking tools and technology
When employees leave the organization, a good way to stay in touch is to add them to an alumni talent pool within an applicant tracking system (ATS). Additionally, tracking employee performance enables SMB leaders to observe trends in turnover and rehires. PEOs like ExtensisHR offer next-gen HRIS tools to keep track of key employee records from a single platform that makes it easier to reach out to a former employee, and vice versa.
Conducting employee surveys and feedback
Your PEO partner can develop and administer employee surveys to evaluate the company’s perception among staff. Their expertise is also helpful in determining why boomerang employees have come back or what changes are needed to recruit this talent pool.
Providing termination guidance
In the event an SMB does have to let a boomerang employee go, the PEO can provide guidance and support throughout a termination, making sure the process adheres to all local, state, and federal guidelines.
Offering Fortune 500-level benefits
SMB employers gain a financial advantage for benefits by coming under the PEO’s umbrella. Large-group pricing brings costs down and allows your company to offer competitive benefit packages to attract boomerang employees.
Who says you can’t go home?
In today’s competitive labor market, boomerang employees can be invaluable hires. It’s much less time consuming and more cost-effective to rehire workers who already have an established employer-employee relationship. These employees are likely familiar with their job duties and company culture—which can lead to increased loyalty and retention.
There are definite upsides for former employees to return, too. Whether it’s renewed relationships with old colleagues, the potential for a higher salary, or the ability to offer new and fresh perspectives, welcoming boomerang employees back to the workplace can become a win-win situation for all.
Looking to leverage your employee alumni network? Contact ExtensisHR today to learn more about our recruiting services.