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Boomerang employees – is it a good idea to re-employ them?

In the wake of David Cameron’s surprise return to government, many political commentators have been asking if it’s wise to re-employ him.



Boomerang employees – is it a good idea to re-employ them?

In the wake of David Cameron’s surprise return to government, many political commentators have been asking if it’s wise to re-employ him.

When an employee who previously left your business tries to come back, how do you determine whether you should re-employ them? Are so-called ‘boomerang employees’ a good investment or a bad idea?

Today it’s common for people to work for many employers over the course of their careers but less common for them to work for the same one twice. Rehiring these boomerang employees can come with benefits but also downsides. While some hit the ground running, others come to earth with a crash.

Previously leaving a business was considered ‘disloyal’

For example, the cost to train them tends to be lower, and their immediate job performance is often better than new employees or internal promotions. But if your business prioritizes long-term job performance or reducing turnover, you may be better off employing externally or promoting from within.

Before you make any decisions, you need to really know why they left in the first place and to assess what new skills they may bring back to the business. Previously leaving a business was considered disloyal, and re-employing former staff was not recommended. However, today an average employee will work for more than 12 different employers during their career. As businesses grapple with high recruitment costs and skill shortages, many are now more willing to consider bringing back boomerang employees.

The benefits of boomerang employees

There are some definite benefits of rehiring former employees. They know the business, are likely to come back ‘with their eyes open’ and are less of a risk than first-time employees. Boomerangs also already know the business so require less training and induction time. Given they are also taking a risk by coming back they may also be more committed in the future. Most importantly if they have gained relevant experience when employed elsewhere, they could return with fresh knowledge, skills, and maturity.

The baggage associated with coming back

Conversely, a boomerang employee may not be welcome by some employees, particularly if they left ‘having spoken their mind’ before leaving.  Bringing back someone who previously worked for you can cause resentment if they do not perform as well as expected or were not a popular employee before they left. Boomerang employees who come back can also bring baggage with them from their previous time, making it harder to bring in new ways of working or try new ideas.

Little research has been done examining the impact of returning employees, but the Havard Business Review has carried out a review. It concluded:

  • A returning employees’ performance tends to remain the same after they have been re-employed. So, a boomerang employee’s performance is predictable based on their previous time with the business.
  • Both internal and external employees improve more over time than those who are re-employed. While boomerang employees performed similarly or even beat internal and external recruits in their first year, they were outperformed in subsequent years on the job.
  • Boomerang staff are more likely to leave again in comparison to both internal and external employees. This suggests that if an employee has left the business once, they may be more willing to do so again.

Recruitment help

If you need help with any aspect of recruitment, from boomerang employees to new graduates, BCU can provide an account manager to help you assess your recruitment and skills needs including providing training, workshops and graduates to fill skill gaps.



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