Talent Acquisition

Why You Should (& Shouldn’t) Rehire Former Employees

A stellar employee at your organisation quits for a “better” job. Months later, you get an email. It turns out that their new gig wasn’t so great after all, and now that stellar employee wants their old job back. Do you rehire them?

Ask anyone 30 years ago and their answer was a definite “no”. Fast forward to today, with talent pools drying up and more employees quitting their jobs than ever before in the last decade, and you’ll find the attitude surrounding rehiring former employees who quit has noticeably shifted. According to a 2015 survey by WorkplaceTrends, 76% of HR professionals say they are more likely to hire these “boomerang employees” now than in the past.

So I’ll ask a different question: Should you rehire them? As with anything in recruiting, it’s complicated. Let’s look at the case for and against rehiring boomerang employees.

Why You Should Rehire Boomerang Employees

Do you ever go to a favourite restaurant and order the exact same thing every time? Of course you do. Everyone does. Yes, there’s a chance that you’ll like something else on the menu more, but why take the risk? You know the dish is delicious.

Boomerang employees are a lot like that dish. In a sea of unknown applicants that carry a load of question marks, there’s plenty of value to be found in the sure thing. For better or worse with an ex-employee, you know what you’re getting.

Certainty aside, here are four other benefits that rehiring boomerang employees can bring:

• They already know the ins and outs. Not only are boomerangs familiar with the company culture, they’re also likely to have prior experience with internal systems and processes.

• They’ve improved. Ex-employees don’t disappear when they walk out the front door. Whether they worked somewhere else, garnered additional training or returned to school, boomerang workers often have new skills, experience or perspective that can benefit your organisation.

• They let others know they have a good thing going. Boomerang workers can improve department retention by attesting to improvements made since they left and letting others who may be thinking about leaving know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

• They save you money. Between the lower effort needed to recruit and train ex-employees and their shorter ramp-up time to full productivity, companies can cut costs by up to 50% per hire by employing a boomerang over a typical applicant (Source: HBR, Cultivating Ex-Employees, 2002).

If you’re struggling to fill vacancies, boomerang employees may prove to be a valuable untapped source of talent.

Why You Shouldn’t Rehire Boomerang Employees

What’s the saying? “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?”

If an employee quit once before, there’s always the risk that they’ll decide to do it again. When they do, you’ll be back to square one scrambling to fill another vacancy, feeling all the more foolish because you thought this time would be different.

That’s a primary reason to be apprehensive of boomerang employees, but it’s not the only one. Here are four more:

• They hold old grudges. If a co-worker or manager is still there who the boomerang employee had friction with in the past, it’s unlikely that they’ll bury the hatchet this time around. Reignited feuds can damage team morale.

• They’re entitled. Are boomerang workers considered “new hires”? Yes, absolutely. Especially if they’ve been outside the organisation for a long time. Ex-employees may disagree though and expect perks, seniority or increased compensation from their original tenure.

• They’re stubborn. A lot can change in an organisation, even after only a few months. Boomerang employees can stubbornly cling to old processes and systems from their original tenure while the rest of the company has moved on.

• They’re not the best candidate for the job. They may be the sure thing, but are they the best thing? Not always. You could be missing out on the top person in your applicant pipeline by unconsciously favouring the ex-worker.

If an employee left in the past, there’s a reason. Fail to correct organisational problems before boomerang workers return and history will be doomed to repeat itself.

How to Effectively Recruit Boomerang Employees

Are you more likely to cut ties with workers as soon as they walk out the door? If so, you’re not alone. According to that same WorkplaceTrends survey, 80% of workers say their former employers have not reached out to encourage their return.

That’s a huge missed opportunity! Many of your former employees could be informed candidates ready to boomerang back into their old role, but you’ll never know unless you target some of your recruiting efforts towards them.

That’s why we created this helpful infographic below: “How to Maintain Boomerang Employee Relations”. In it, we cover strategies to woo great workers back at every step of their trajectory once they quit your company. We also explain how helpful tools like an applicant tracking system can save your recruiting team time and energy when staying on top of all of your boomerangs.

boomerang employee relations infographic

So I’ll ask again: Should you rehire former employees? The answer is going to depend on various factors. If you decide it’s worth the risk, having the right strategy and software in place can make all the difference.

To gain a full understanding of why employees leave in the first place, download Glassdoor’s Effective Exit Interview Templates. And to make sure you’re asking all the right questions before you bring an ex-employee back into the fold, download Glassdoor’s comprehensive eBook on How to Conduct Better Interviews.

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