Association Connect

Boomerang Employees: How to Win Back Your Best Former Associates

By Rachel Markey | September 14, 2020

It’s no secret that job-hopping is on the rise. While sticking with one job for 15-plus years used to be the norm, most hiring managers are now seeing longer resumés with some positions lasting only two years or less. There are many speculations as to why this trend emerged, but along with shorter tenures comes an increase in candidates returning to former employers. HR professionals call these rehirings “boomerang” employees.

How Common Are Boomerang Employees?

According to a survey by, 85% of HR professionals said they have received resumés from former employees in the past five years. And 40% said their organization hired back half of those applicants. So, it looks like many employees want to return to a company they worked for in the past, but only a fraction of them get the chance to do so—which is a shame because there really can be some great benefits of welcoming past associates with open arms.

Advantages of Hiring Boomerang Employees

Here at YGS, we’ve been fortunate to have welcomed back several former employees. There are many advantages of rekindling those relationships, including:

  • Reduced training time. The learning curve for boomerang employees is significantly less than someone joining your team for the very first time, especially if they’re returning to the same role they had filled previously.
  • Clear expectations. One of the most common reasons for job-hopping is when a candidate finds that their expectation of the company or role is different from what they understood during the interview process. Someone who is already familiar with the nuances of the job won’t be faced with those kinds of misunderstandings.
  • Culture comfort. If it’s been a short time since the employee left their initial position, chances are they still know a handful of people working there. They will also already be familiar with any elements of the culture that are specific to your company. This goes a long way in making them a great fit and maintaining a seamless team dynamic.

As you can see, by rehiring former employees, you can eliminate many of the challenges that often come with training, expectations, or culture fit—which is a win-win scenario for everyone involved and really be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

How to Win Back Former Employees

Although rehiring won’t work in every instance, those employees that you’ve missed since the day they left are well worth fighting for. The tricky part is that most of the things you can do to entice boomerang employees need to happen well before they leave your organization.

What You Can Do Before Employees Depart

Obviously, the culture you build within your organization is a huge factor for why employees may want to return. So put real effort into cultivating a company culture that people will want to return to—or ,better yet, won’t want to leave in the first place. This doesn’t just mean hosting ice cream socials or allowing dogs at the office. Real company culture is built on making employees feel valued. Here are a few key items to keep in mind:

  • Offer new and challenging opportunities. Fostering constant learning is a great way to keep associates engaged and excited about their work. Just be sure to follow their cues of when and how much they can take on at once, because you don’t want to overwhelm them with too many new things at once. But offering ongoing development opportunities—attending conferences, earning certifications, or taking charge of special projects, among others—can help employees feel invested in your company, because it shows you’re investing in them.
  • Ensure a growth trajectory. One of the top reasons people leave their job is because they feel like their position is stagnant. Of course, you want to hire goal-minded people who can help your organization grow. The tricky part is ensuring that those people see the chance to achieve goals in their own career path and that they don’t feel like they need to leave your organization in order to further their career. So promote from within wherever possible, and help people see what’s possible for them if they work hard and stick with it.
  • Acknowledge good work. Positive reinforcement goes a long way, and people work harder when they feel genuinely appreciated. So be authentically impressed by your team’s successes! Celebrate wins and build a culture where every person is recognized and valued.
  • Maintain open communication and trust. A culture where associates feel comfortable coming forward with ideas or concerns will win over a silent culture every time. You never know where the next great idea will come from. So make sure every voice is heard.

All of these points are factors that may contribute to an employee’s decision to return to your organization. If the person started working for your company straight out of college, they may not realize that these culture elements aren’t always present at every job. It very well may take their departure to make them see how good your culture really is, so it’s important to never take a resignation personally.

Even after an associate has submitted their notice of resignation, while they’re serving their final few weeks, you have opportunities to lay the groundwork for a smooth return, if they should choose to do so. Make sure the person knows that their achievements for the company are deeply appreciated. If you would consider hiring them again in the future, tell them so before they leave. You can exchange personal email addresses or connect on LinkedIn to keep in touch. By parting ways on good terms, you can keep that relationship strong and embrace the potential to reconnect in the future.

What You Can Do After Former Employees Re-Apply

No matter how good your culture is, there’s sometimes no way to prevent a great employee from leaving. The truth is that there are tons of different reasons why people move on from their jobs—ranging from financial motivation to factors in their personal lives. If they do decide to apply again in the future, try these tactics to make their return worth their while:

  • Offer a new title and/or pay increase. Prevent the candidate from feeling like they’re backsliding in their career by giving them a little boost. Just make sure that any new responsibilities are clearly outlined, so that everyone understands the expectations.
  • Present any changes that took place in their absence. Perhaps an issue that had contributed to the candidate’s departure in the first place has since been remedied. Or maybe a new challenge has come to light that they might be able to help you with. The person will be grateful to be brought up to speed on any relevant shifts within the organization.
  • Ask them what they want! If you’re unsure about what factors might win back your employee for good, just ask them. You may be able to accommodate requests for things such as a different desk location, an adjusted work schedule, or maybe a specific piece of equipment that could make their job easier. You may be surprised by the big difference that small adjustments can make.

In Summation

As you can see, welcoming boomerang employees back to your organization can be great for everyone. And if you have a strong enough company culture, open communication, and opportunities for growth, those associates that you worked so hard to train may choose to resume their journey with you.

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