The Boomerang Employee – Consciously Recoupling


‘Never go back’ used to be the oft repeated mantra when people looking to change jobs considered a return to a previous employer. However, it is safe to say that this view no longer holds much validity. Times change, and both employees and employers are now more willing than ever before to re-engage with each other after time spent apart.

Against the backdrop of an ever tightening labour market, recruiting former employees is now part of many talent attraction strategies. And there has been something of a sea-change too in terms of employees no longer shying away from returning to a former employer.

The rise of the Boomerang employee

In fact, according to Accountemps (a US staffing firm), around 98% of HR managers indicated that they would welcome back a previous employee who left on good terms. Whilst the proportion of employees considering returning was less – at 52% – it’s on the increase. As such, the last three to four years have given rise to the boomerang employee. And why not? The benefits are clear for all involved.

For employers, returning employees bring with them many benefits:

  • Reduced recruitment costs – you’re already connected so why incur recruitment fees?
  • An understanding of the company culture and its values – by making an informed choice based on previous experience, a boomerang employee ‘knows what to expect’ and are less likely to fail as a result of the corporate culture
  • A much shorter ‘learning curve’ leading to reduced ‘onboarding’ time
  • Less need for training and development in how to undertake certain tasks – whether returning at a similar level or at a more senior one, this can bring tremendous benefits
  • Existing networks, both organisational and social that they can utilise
  • Access to new skills learnt elsewhere
  • A boost to retention – returning employees are often able to give people who are thinking of ‘moving on’ some objective input with regards to alternative employment – whilst the grass may appear greener, it’s not always the case…

Clearly many of these points are equally applicable to returning employees – they’ll understand how the company works, its expectations and how they may be able to progress their careers.

Creating the right environment for employees to return

This ‘conscious recoupling’ however does have implications – for both parties. Organisations need to evaluate their current leaving processes to make sure exiting employees leave with a positive impression and feel the door is always open. Too often, people are left to walk out of organisations without having had a well-structured exit interview – a real oversight given the opportunities that could arise for both parties.

For those employees leaving not of their own accord, for example, as a result of business change and redundancy it is almost more important to ensure employees leave feeling positive about the organisation. After all, they will not hesitate to air their views publically online.

In reality, this comes down to how adept the organisation is at managing change and how supported employees feel with regards to transitioning their careers outside of the organisation. So the case for outplacement or career transition support remains valid; by demonstrating that you are a genuinely considerate employer during difficult times, you’re more likely to be considered as an employer of choice, or at the least one that an ex-employee may consider going back to when business picks up again.

Employees too have a role to play. Not burning bridges and thinking longer term about their career is something all employees leaving an employer should think about. It is after all a small world.

Against the well-documented global skills shortage it would appear that the pendulum has swung firmly in favour of the candidate, for now at least. As such organisations have to reconsider their employee journey and value proposition to ensure that employees are able to rotate back if and when the time is right.