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What Are Boomerang Employees?

What are boomerang employees and what are the pros and cons of hiring them? Also, how companies can support them.

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Visier HR Glossary

What are boomerang employees?

Boomerang employees are employees who have voluntarily left an organization and then, at some future point, decide to come back to the organization.

Pros and cons of boomerang employees

There are both potential benefits and some potential downfalls of boomerang employees. One of the big benefits is that as other employees see that a former employee has returned it strengthens the company’s reputation as a great place to work. After all, if the employee is coming back, they must not have found that the grass was greener someplace else after all. Another benefit is that boomerang employees are already familiar with the company culture and have established relationships that they can readily renew. They may also bring in new ideas that they’ve gained from the job they left for.

On the other hand, boomerang employees do represent some potential risk.

For instance, the reason or reasons the employee left in the first place may still exist—e.g., pay, a poor manager, frustration with the company culture or processes. That sets them up for another exit which can be disruptive. In addition, not all of the employee’s former colleagues may be excited about their return—they may, in fact, feel resentment that they’re being welcomed back with open arms.

Despite the potential drawbacks, though, boomerang employees tend to offer more positive than negative potential for the organizations they return to.

Amid the “great recession,” some experts are predicting that boomerang employees may be on the rise—and that employers have an opportunity to proactively take advantage of this trend.

How companies can nurture boomerang employees

Whenever an employee decides to leave an organization—especially if they’re a high-potential employee—employers have the opportunity to lay the foundation for their eventual return. They can do this by leaving the door open to their eventual return—being explicit that they would entertain the idea of the employee returning to the company at some future time if the opportunity presented itself.

It's also important to keep the lines of communication open with the employee even after they have left the company. This might involve a manager or colleague—or the HR department—reaching out on occasion to see how the employee is doing or keeping the employee on certain circulation lists (e.g., the company e-letter or news releases) or included in company forums like “Former employees of XYZ company.” 

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