The practice of re-hiring employees who left your organization no longer carries the same stigma it once did. In fact, a report produced by research and consulting firm WorkplaceTrends.com and The Workforce Institute at Kronos reveals that enterprises are coming around to “boomerang” workers.
The survey, Boomerang Employees and the Organizations They Once Left, conducted in July 2015, included responses from 1,807 HR professionals, managers and employees. Nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees — even if the employee left in good standing — but 76 percent now say that their companies are now more accepting of hiring boomerang employees.
Managers agree, as nearly two-thirds said they are more accepting of hiring back former colleagues. While only 15 percent of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, nearly 40 percent said they would consider going back to a company they once worked for.
High performers get high priority
In the past five years, 85 percent of HR professionals say they have received job applications from former employees, and 40 percent say their organization hired about half of those former employees who applied. This high hiring rate is not surprising, since HR professionals (56 percent) and managers (51 percent) say they give very high or high priority to job applicants who were former employees that left in good standing.
Giving priority to boomerang employees, however, only increases the pressure on an already tight job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are four job seekers for every open job available in the U.S. as of July 2015. Some companies see boomerangs as a way to gain a competitive edge through talent acquisition, while others see boomerang employees as a way to close the skills gap.
“Every year it gets harder to be a ‘new’ job seeker. It’s harder to compete against boomerangs. It’s harder to compete against passive talent (i.e., talent that’s poached from competitors). There’s a lot more pressure on companies to be the most competitive or risk losing the talent they’ve got,” says Dan Schawbel, founder and principal at WorkplaceTrends.com and an author author covering workforce management and management consulting.
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Almeda warns that choosing the least risky option isn’t always the best business decision. “Sometimes you want to hire someone who’s never worked for you before, who has a fresh, new and innovative perspective and who can bring new ideas and ways of thinking,” he says.
Also, not all former employees should be boomerangs; workers returning to previous employers should be the cream-of-the-crop high performers, according to Almeda. “This is not an entitlement. You have to make sure that the people returning have created a solid history of contribution and success and are adding value above and beyond what they did before,” he says.
Familiarity with an organization’s culture is one of the biggest benefits to hiring boomerang employees, according to the survey. Thirty three percent of HR professionals and 38 percent of managers agree that familiarity with the organization’s culture is the biggest benefit to hiring back former employees, with nearly a third appreciating that boomerangs do not require as much training as a brand new employee.
Many organizations consider these boomerang employees as a known entity, both with the skills they have and that they are a fit with the culture. “Boomerangs are about as close to no risk as companies can get,” says Almeda. In some cases, he notes, boomerangs who’ve left your business for a competitor and then returned, or those who left to take a consulting role can bring back valuable industry information.
“Companies want to hire people who are less risky. If you have accolades, accomplishments, tenure and a good reputation even if you left the company, that makes you less risky to hire. You can be more easily trained, you’re already comfortable with the culture and you can be productive almost on your first day,” says Schawbel.
Sending the right message
As culture and engagement become increasingly important to businesses, boomerang employees offer another benefit: a morale boost. “When top talent leaves, your other employees get anxious and wonder why, wonder if there’s layoffs coming, or if the company’s not stable. But when talent returns, that sends a message that the workplace is a good one,” says Dave Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos.
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Have an alumni strategy
Companies looking to capitalize on boomerang employees should make sure to have strategies in place to maintain communication if a top performer leaves. While organizations appear increasingly more accepting of boomerang applicants, 80 percent of employees surveyed say their employers do not have a strategy in place to encourage them to return, and 64 percent say there appears to be no strategy for maintaining a relationship after workers leave.
“Technology and social media have made it much easier and more cost effective for businesses to communicate with alumni. Facebook groups, LinkedIn, email newsletters and the like are all free or low-cost ways to maintain that relationship with your former talent,” says Schawbel.
HR practitioners say they use several strategies for keeping in touch with former high-performing employees; 45 percent of survey respondents use email newsletters, 30 percent frequently reach out through recruiters and 27 percent have formed alumni groups. Facebook is the platform of choice for alumni groups, according to 42 percent of HR professionals responding to the survey, with email and LinkedIn close behind at 39 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
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Organizations need to start considering an alumni relationship long before your employees become alumni, and that begins with the relationship between a manager and the employee.
“I want to create an environment where people don’t want to leave, but if they do, we’re not going to excommunicate them. If you’re creating the right relationship between manager and employee, then there’s a genuine interest, concern, respect, trust and transparency, they’re more likely to come back one day,” Almeda says.