Are “Boomerang Employees” the Next Big Thing in 2023?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic roared across the globe in 2020, employers have had to weather some unusual staffing trends. Massive layoffs gave way to uncertainty about rehiring. Then the Great Resignation led an unprecedented number of workers to leave their jobs. In 2023, it looks like the next big trend is “boomerang employees.” Here’s what you should know.

What Is a Boomerang Employee?

A boomerang employee is someone who left your company but now wants to return. They may have gotten caught up in the excitement of the Great Resignation believing as many did that “the grass is greener” on the other side of the fence…. only to find out that much work is what you make of it and spiraling wages were unsustainable. Many discovered they liked their work environment, their jobs, their coworkers, and that they were talented and good at their jobs and professions.

Or, maybe they were interested in pursuing a different line of work only to find out that they didn’t enjoy it. For whatever reason, boomerang employees are reapplying for their old jobs.

Benefits of Boomerang Employees

Although some companies have a policy against rehiring anyone who left, this can be short-sighted. Boomerang employees are already familiar with the company, so they need less training than brand-new hires.

If they left recently, they also have existing relationships within the company, making it easier to rejoin the team. And since they’re coming to you, rehiring them can save you the time and expenses involved in recruiting new candidates. In addition, they are likely to be loyal (possibly) and committed. They’ve seen what else is out there and made the decision to return.

Potential Drawbacks

Of course, there are also risks involved in hiring back your former team members. In particular, you’ll want to understand what caused them to leave in the first place. Boomerang employees are not inherently disloyal. But if they left because they were unhappy with something at your company, it’s important to clear the air. Are there small changes you could make to address their concerns?

In addition, if someone is returning after several years away, things will likely have changed within the organization. Make sure that they understand the differences between the job they left and the position as it exists today. You may need to provide more training to a boomerang employee who left a long time ago than to one who has only been gone a few months.

Most employees leave their jobs because of pay. During the Great Resignation, circumstances created a perfect storm for people to leave and demand more money and compensation. Employees were in the driver’s seat and it was a seller’s market. Most did not wait for their current employers to catch-up with the wage raise opting to leave for higher pay. Overtime, most employers rose wages creating a comfortable work environment combined with fair or aggressive compensation.

The problem with such a high emphasis on pay, is that employees will leave again given the chance or opportunity. A corollary to this is if some leaves once they will leave again. And as we all know, a bad hire (rehire) is costly!

Smoothing the Transition

Welcoming back boomerang workers starts with an employee-first work culture.

Encourage your team members to follow their hearts, even if that means taking a job with another company. Set the expectation that they are free to leave, and to return, without judgment. When people resign, try to ensure that it is on good terms. Keep in touch with them on LinkedIn or other platforms. If they left because of an unfriendly or toxic environment, this is a good opportunity to get your business world in order. When they return, make it a moment of celebration. Make your boomerang employees feel welcome, and encourage their teammates to do the same.

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