What is a Boomerang Employee and How to Recruit Them

What is a Boomerang Employee and How to Recruit Them

Key Takeaways:

  • Boomerang employees have become increasingly more common and are less costly than new hires.
  • Companies need to strengthen their employer brand and showcase their solid EVP to reattract boomerang employees.
  • To prevent employees from leaving in the first place, companies should focus on retention, address issues identified in exit interviews, and foster a positive company culture and employee experience.

Once an employee resigns, they usually don’t return to their past employer – or do they? In the past, it was commonly believed that once an employee left an organization, they were gone for good. However, the paradigm has shifted, and organizations are now actively embracing the idea of boomerang employees as a strategic talent acquisition and retention tool. The boomerang effect, once perceived as a mere coincidence or exception, has become a deliberate and sought-after strategy in today's competitive job market. 

A recent study of international employees conducted by UKG found that almost 20% of workers who left their jobs during the pandemic returned to their prior employers. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, 28% of all new hires are previous team members (aka boomerang hires) who resigned within the last 36 months.

With boomerang employees becoming more common than companies might think, it might be time for hiring professionals to tap into this growing talent pool. This blog will share what boomerang employees are, showcase the power of recruiting boomerang employees, and highlight strategies on how to implement this trend into recruitment practices.


What Is a Boomerang Employee?

A boomerang employee leaves their employer for some reason, only to return to their old position in the future. Their reasons for leaving can differ; some leave for a perceived better opportunity, while others resign to care for family members, pursue personal goals, or seek a fresh challenge.

Boomerang employees typically return to their old employers when a new job doesn’t meet their expectations or after addressing family commitments. 

The concept of boomerang employees has gained recognition as organizations increasingly view their return as a strategic talent acquisition and retention approach.

what is a boomerang employee


Benefits of Hiring a Boomerang Employee

There are several advantages that companies can look forward to when they rehire a boomerang employee:


Easier Onboarding Process

A prior employee who returns to their last role or a similar one will know what they’ll be responsible for and how to perform their duties. While things may have changed somewhat since they left, they won’t need the extensive training that other new hires require.

Their familiarity with the company’s processes and procedures makes boomerang employees highly attractive to organizations that need someone who can take over responsibilities quickly. Company leaders won’t need to wait weeks or months for employees to reach their full capabilities.


Less Risk of a Bad Hire

Hiring an ex-employee reduces the risk of onboarding someone who isn’t the right fit for the organization. The employer is already familiar with their capabilities and performance, so they know what to expect if the employee returns. 

Hiring a proven fit can also foster the employer brand; these like-minded individuals already align with the company’s mission and values and will help the company retain other high-quality employees.

A new hire is usually an unknown quantity to the company. They may have lots of experience and solid references, but the employer won’t be able to judge their actual performance until they start the job.


Familiarity with Company Culture

Prior employees are familiar with an organization’s culture. They understand the company’s values and mission, and they’ll likely know their teammates and the hiring manager.

Employers who hire a previous team member won’t need to worry about touring the facilities or integrating them into the department. While there may have been a few changes since they left, the assimilation time is much shorter or even non-existent.

Also, an employee's return reinforces positive aspects of the culture, enhances team dynamics, and contributes to a cohesive and harmonious work environment.

employer branding strategies


Strengthened Employer Brand

When a prior employee returns to a company, it can improve the organization’s employer brand. Future applicants will understand that the organization has much to offer – otherwise, people wouldn’t want to return to it. Their decision to return can also demonstrate that the company offers a desirable work environment and opportunities for growth. It sends a message to prospective candidates that the organization values its employees and fosters a culture worth returning to.

Hiring boomerang workers can also encourage employee retention. Existing employees who are considering leaving may think twice about their decision. After all, if there aren’t better options available, there’s no reason to resign.

Additionally, rehiring boomerang employees can be a powerful testimonial, attracting top talent who see the organization as a place where their skills and contributions are valued and recognized.


Mix of Skills

When an employee leaves for another position, they’ll acquire new skills that may be quite attractive to the prior employer. Their mix of previous experience in the organization coupled with a fresh skill set from their new role can be beneficial to companies that need help in certain areas. 

Combining their previous knowledge with fresh perspectives from other roles or industries helps the organization stay agile in an evolving, competitive sector.


To Attract Boomerang Employees, Have a Strong EVP

Organizations will find it challenging to reattract ex-employees if they don’t have a strong employee value proposition (EVP). An EVP is what a company has to offer its employees. This includes tangible incentives like salary and benefits, but it also refers to intangible advantages like the company’s unique workplace culture. 

Hiring professionals should closely monitor their salary and benefits offerings to ensure they’re comparable with other companies in their industry. If they don’t measure up, bringing back prior employees who found a better option will be challenging. 

Similarly, hiring managers should understand the reasons why the employee left. If there was a perceived violation of the assumed agreements between a manager and the employee, they’re less likely to return. This is one reason why it’s important to incorporate employee engagement surveys and candidate personas. Feedback can help hiring professionals understand how employees feel about the organization, while candidate personas can help showcase what talent is looking for.

employee value proposition


Companies that Hire New Employees Must Work to Retain Them

Whenever a new hire joins an organization, there’s always a risk of returning to their old employer if they aren’t happy in their new role. Managers should ensure that recruiters understand what the position entails so there aren’t any disconnects when the employee joins the company. If there is a disconnect, it leads to a bad candidate experience – which can then lead to departure from the company.

Hiring managers should also seek to understand why an employee left their organization and what they hope to gain from their new role. New team members will be less likely to return to their old employer if they find what they seek in the new position they acquire.

For instance, if an employee left their old role because they’re looking for more opportunities for advancement, hiring managers should ensure that team members have access to mentorship opportunities that can help them further their career. Companies should implement incentives into marketing materials so all employees and candidates can see all the benefits available to them.

Understanding a candidate’s motivations helps employers measure how they live up to expectations during the hiring process and throughout the length of their employment.  


Prevent Employees from Leaving from the Start

While a good percentage of employees who leave return later, not all will. Implementing effective retention practices is crucial for companies to maintain a long-term relationship with their employees, as not all departing employees will return. Organizations can significantly reduce their churn rate by prioritizing retention efforts and preventing valuable talent from being lured back to previous employers.

Hiring managers who know they have lost a quality employee are smart to stay in contact with the employee. Most prior employees won’t make the leap themselves, but receiving encouragement from their previous employer can improve the chances of a rehire.


How to Recruit Boomerang Employees 

Employers who realize they’re losing a talented worker are wise to put a plan in place to reattract them later. Follow these tips to attract top-tier workers back to an organization:

recruiting boomerang employees


Conduct Exit Interviews for Departing Team Members

Companies should incorporate exit interviews into their offboarding processes if they don’t already have them in place. An exit interview allows team members to explain their reasons for leaving and any grievances they have about the workplace. Hiring professionals can use this information to improve the work culture and implement any feedback where needed.

Employers who see employees leave under favorable circumstances should keep in touch with them over the following months. Sending an occasional quick email or text to see how they’re doing can significantly improve the chances of a rehire. Hiring managers can also notify them of new roles they may be suitable for.

Tip: Reaching out a year or so after their departure and providing them an opportunity to return to the organization can go a long way to bringing them back on board. According to a study from Gartner, 35% of ex-employees want to hear about new opportunities with their prior organization.


Create Recruitment Marketing Campaigns to Target Former Employees

Hiring professionals can combine direct outreach with other tactics, like a recruitment advertising campaign. With recruitment advertising, employers target specific groups of people to join their company (or rejoin it) according to their experience and skills. 

For instance, hiring professionals might email prior employees about current job openings or run social media ads that appear in the feeds of their former team members. 

Tip: Be where the audience is, and hiring professionals can better understand where top talent is by creating candidate personas.

Also, ensure marketing materials showcase all the benefits of working at the organization, from salary to benefits. However, when creating a campaign for boomerang employees, it’s essential to highlight what’s different or what’s new.


Focus on Company Culture

A commonly cited reason for leaving an organization is a poor working environment or lack of alignment with company culture. Many workers believe culture influences their job performance, including doing their best work (77%) and their productivity and efficiency (76%). 

Hiring professionals who note continuous feedback about the company’s culture should address the problems before reattracting prior employees. Attracting a boomerang employee will be much easier if they can demonstrate that the issues are no longer a problem.

employer image


Recruiting and Hiring Boomerang Employees

When a company rehires a talented worker, it benefits from a less expensive onboarding process, easier employee assimilation, and a quick turnaround. However, before starting the recruitment process, employers should understand why their employees left and fix any outstanding issues. 

With the right strategy and a solid EVP, companies will find recruiting and retaining boomerang employees much easier.


At Recruitics, we excel in connecting talent with great brands. We’re a mix of seasoned recruitment marketing experts, employer brand masters, numbers nerds, search pros, and social media mavens ready to deliver against your goals. Reach out today to see how we can help you revamp your recruitment strategies and become an extension of your talent acquisition team.

Subscribe to newsletter


Find Out How We Can Become an Extension of Your Talent Acquisition Team