The case for “Boomerang” employees

Every business owner I know is looking to fill vacancies. In some cases, their businesses have grown and they need to add capacity. In others, their long-tenured people have opted for retirement, their mid-level managers are burned out and need a different situation, or their younger associates have left for new opportunities. Should employers be concerned about their labor force?  In many cases, yes. In November 2021, an all-time high of 4.5 million employees quit their jobs, smashing the previous record of 4.2 million in October according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This seemingly endless crunch for talent is forcing employers to get creative. One strategy gaining momentum is re-recruiting “boomerang” employees—those who used to work at an organization, left voluntarily and now are open to returning.

Think your former employees don’t want to join your company again? After all, they did leave you once before. But don’t let that hold you back. A recent survey by Robert Half found that 62% of professionals would consider coming back for the right offer, and another 12% said they’d go back “in a heartbeat.”


It’s quite possible that you had workers satisfied with you as an employer leave who left for good reasons. Perhaps they were caring for a child or sick loved one. They might have a long commute at the time. Maybe they wanted to grow their career: take on more, expand their skills, become a manager, or focus on a certain type of work, and you just couldn’t fulfill their wishes. They could have been lured away with the offer of a big salary and unlimited growth potential, but their new employer hasn’t lived up to their promises. Or they are just not happy there.

Your business situation might have changed as well. Perhaps you have expanded geographically, increased your scope of services, extended into new industries, added technology, grown your staff or adopted a hybrid work model. Any of these changes could make you a more desirable choice. Now might just be the time for an alumnus to come back.

For employers on the hunt for good people, it’s time to be open to new options.

6 advantages of returning workers

Employers would be well advised to keep an open mind about employees who left on good terms. These boomerang employees offer advantages that certainly make them worth considering.

A safer hire

One of the biggest recruiting challenges is getting the full picture of a candidate—their work ethic, temperament, soft skills and other factors. Usually, employers only have the candidate’s resume and interview to help glean this information. With boomerang employees, you may know the person well, or someone else in the company does. At the very least, their past performance reviews should still be on file. Having access to this information can provide a much more accurate picture of a candidate, making them a safer hire.

Faster onboarding

Since boomerang employees have worked in your business, they are already familiar with your culture, processes and policies. And, if they’re reapplying to the same position they held previously, or in the same department, training will take much less time than with a new hire. Having this familiarity means a boomerang employee already has a significant head start and can begin making meaningful contributions sooner. That’s big, especially if the position has been vacant for some time.

Greater skillsets

The majority of boomerang workers are returning with skills they learned from other companies, making them more valuable than ever. These additional experiences and expertise are on top of the skills they demonstrated when they worked for you previously. In other words, boomerang employees are essentially guaranteed to have the skills needed for a given position, in addition to everything else they’ve learned while they’ve been gone.

Better performance

Researchers at Cornell University who have studied boomerang employees found that they do outperform new hires. “They re-enter the organization already familiar with the social system . . . knowing how to act, how to communicate, and generally, how to get things done,” they write. Another overlooked benefit is that “hiring boomerangs may help to reinforce an organization’s core values and culture, which is particularly important in this uncertain time.”


Higher ROI

Employees leaving your business and returning have some unforeseen pluses. They undoubtedly have gained new connections, perhaps with vendors who can make a positive impact and with new colleagues who could be your next recruits. If former employees were very well liked by customers, it bodes well for your reputation. If they worked for a competitor and returned, they might have connections to prospective new clients. They can also bring you fresh ideas which is always positive for innovation and growth.

Good for morale

Bringing back a former employee sends a positive message to your current employees. It says that you have an open mind, and you don’t hold grudges. It also telegraphs that the grass isn’t always greener. This strategy can garner increased appreciation for you as an employer all the way around—a benefit that many owners don’t realize.

A word to the wise: before you bring someone back, look at your internal team. If it’s a management position you’re filling, make sure that you’ve given your current employees every opportunity to flex their skills and move up. If you do decide to rehire, let current employees know so they aren’t blindsided. The last thing you want is for them to feel overlooked or out of the loop.

Businesses that need assistance with workforce planning, including recruitment can look to an outside HR advisor for assistance. NEMR Total HR offers a team of highly-experienced SHRM-certified professionals ready to help. Chat Live with us to learn more or Email Us.