What are the benefits of boomerang workers?

·4-min read
Business woman talking to her colleagues during a meeting in a boardroom. Group of happy business people working together in a creative office.
'Boomerang employees' were once seen as disloyal but many companies are now open to rehiring previous staff workers. Photos: Getty

Businesses have traditionally frowned upon the re-hiring of former employees, but things are changing.

Job hopping has become more common and the average tenure for a position is shorter than a decade ago, with under-25s spending an average of less than two years at a company.

While ‘boomerang’ employees were once stigmatised as disloyal, research has shown that many organisations are open to rehiring workers who had quit to go elsewhere. In one survey of 2,800 senior managers in the US, 94% said they would rehire ex-employees who left on good terms.

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According to a recent international survey, nearly 20% of workers who quit their jobs during the pandemic have since returned to their old employers.

At face value, the rehiring of alumni seems risky – after all, someone who has quit once may leave again.

However, research shows boomerangs outperform both internal and new hires in the short term, so long as they originally left for neutral or positive reasons.

In fact, an increasing number of organisations are developing alumni networks for former employees to stay in touch when they leave. So what are the benefits of boomerang workers?

Boomerang workers don’t need to learn the ropes

One of the main benefits of boomerang employees is that they don’t need to learn the ins and outs of a company they’re already familiar with.

They may need less training and hand-holding compared to new hires, which can save time too.

A study by Cornell University compared the work experiences of more than 2,000 boomerangs and almost 11,000 new hires in a US-based healthcare organisation.

It found that boomerangs outperformed new hires, especially in roles that involved administrative skills, scheduling, working with others and the application of organisational routines and rules.

Returning employees may have more skills

Former employees can provide valuable insights, especially if they worked for a similar company or a competitor. They may return with more skills and a fresh perspective on business trends.

Boomerangs may also have a wider network due to their time away, which may mean more clients.

It costs less to recruit them

According to some studies, hiring former employees may save money, too. One study found companies can save between one-third and two-thirds on recruiting costs when hiring a former employee.

Many companies work with recruiters to attract top talent, but this process can be long and expensive.

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Hiring a former employee could also save a company money. Photo: Getty

Boomerang employees may be more likely to spot a job posting on a former company’s social media page, which may save money on the traditional recruiter approach.

However, research has also shown that rehiring a former employee might not be the cheaper option. If someone returns with more experience, skills and market insight, they will likely want a higher returning salary.

Who are the boomerang workers?

An analysis of three million employee records covering more than 120 organisations between 2019 and 2022 identified several common trends among boomerang employees.

Overall, 28% of “new hires” were actually boomerang hires who had resigned within the previous 36 months.

There were also some differences between industries. Boomerangs represented an average 33% of new hires in retail, compared to 25% in manufacturing and just 14% in technology.

Boomerang employees were also more likely to be managers than non-managers.

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Boomerangs come with many benefits, but it’s important to be careful. If someone left under negative circumstances, this may be a red flag.

The problems surrounding the employee may not have been resolved, which may lead to them leaving once again.

And there’s no way of knowing if someone will quit once again if a better opportunity arises.

That being said, boomerang employees make up a great, untapped resource for businesses – who can reap the benefits of their skills and experience.

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