After months of the “Great Resignation,” another workforce trend is developing – ”boomerang” employees, or those who are returning to companies they left.
In some cases, businesses are pursuing former employees to rejoin them; in others, ex-employees, either unsatisfied with a new job or having been on the sidelines a while, are seeking a return to their old workplace. The reacquainting process in interviewing and rehiring can mean some awkward moments, and for both company leaders and ex-employees, there are important considerations before deciding to work together again.
Boomerang employees can be a powerful force for your company if they come back for the right reasons. If they found the grass was not greener on the other side, a boomerang employee may be your biggest advocate on culture. They save companies time and money in the usual recruiting process and strengthen the business because they’re a known commodity.
And for returning employees, there’s often a renewed sense of appreciation for where they work and whom they work with. They feel more appreciated. But it can be dicey if issues that led to them leaving are still there.
Here are some tips for former employees when considering a return to a company, and also some advice for leaders when weighing whether to bring a former employee back:
For the returning employee
- Do your homework. It can be a good thing to go back, but only if the company addressed whatever issues caused you to leave in the first place. If it was leadership, have they fixed that? It’s important to do your homework to find out what changes have been made that would encourage you to want to work there again.
- Ask your employer the hard questions. Employees should feel comfortable asking tough questions, such as, “What steps have you taken to make sure I won’t dread coming to my job anymore? Why won’t you allow more people to work remotely? How have you improved the work culture since I left?”
- Sell them on the benefits of rehiring you. New employees take both training and time to ramp up at a new job. When ex-employees pursue a job at their old company, they should emphasize their track record with the company and their familiarity with processes and people – strengths that save the company time and money to recruit and interview other candidates.
- Be prepared for changes. The job the employee left may have changed, thus when that person returns to his former employer, they may be reporting to new people and using new processes. A real selling point about an ex-employee returning is that person embracing flexibility and having added skills that make them even more valuable. They should promote those while being prepared to view their old job with new eyes.
For the employer
- Sharply focus interview questions to determine compatibility. Most importantly, the company needs to identify why the employee left the first time. Do those issues still exist? The leaders should ask specific questions related to the ex-employee’s recent experience and about their whys regarding returning. Have they added a new skill set that makes them even more valuable? If any prior issues with the company are resolved, does the leader sense a long-term commitment this time?
- Don’t be desperate. Although numerous companies are struggling to fill open positions, it’s important that the company doesn’t get desperate because of hiring needs and welcomes back a toxic employee. As much damage as they did the first time they worked for you, it will be multiplied by 10 times if a high-performing employee watches the company bring someone back who underperformed and caused issues the first time they were there.
- Don’t make it all about money. While many companies are increasing pay packages to find high-quality workers, that shouldn’t be automatic when welcoming back former employees. That could alienate other employees who stayed with the company and have not gotten increases. For the return engagement to work, it can’t all be about money and benefits. It’s important to find out what it is about their overall workplace experience that will help keep them there. Is it a more specific career growth plan, or working from home?
In the movies, they say the sequel is rarely better than the original. But the second time around can be better for boomerang employees and their employers, as long as both sides are up front and appreciation is equal.
Eric Harkins is the president and founder of GKG Search & Consulting, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm that helps organizations acquire and retain top performers. He is the ForbesBooks author of Great Leaders Make Sure Monday Morning Doesn’t Suck: How To Get, Keep & Grow Talent. During his 25-year career in corporate America, Harkins has held leadership positions ranging from manager to chief talent officer and chief administrative officer. He is a motivational speaker, executive coach, and an expert in helping companies create a culture that high performers want to be a part of.
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