3 tips to successfully re-hire ‘boomerang’ employees

The eternal question of whether to build or buy talent to fill skills gaps has been debated for years. In 2023, why not consider the best of both worlds by re-hiring former workers?  ‘Boomerang’ employees have considerable benefits: they are familiar with the culture of their former organisation; they’ve possibly gained valuable skills and experience elsewhere; and having seen first-hand that the grass is not always greener elsewhere, they just might be the greatest advocates for your organisation. Even better, you know them, you know what they are capable of, so any ‘building’ in terms of extra skills will be marginal.

From ‘Great Resignation’ to ‘Great Regret’

For many HR professionals and executives, a defining characteristic of 2022 was ‘The Great Resignation’ or ‘Great Reshuffle’ where workers en masse re-assessed the role of work in their lives and opted to ditch their existing employer for better pay, better conditions and a better overall employee experience elsewhere. However, it’s also possible some of those decisions were made in haste. As soon as signs of economic and pandemic recovery were seen, two years of pent up frustration overflowed and many seemingly loyal employees jumped ship. Now, with global economies declining and less recruiting occurring, ‘quitting regret’ is on the rise.

One US-based survey from July 2022 indicated that just over a quarter (26%) of workers said they regretted leaving their previous job. Hospitality workers (31%) were the most likely to regret quitting, while healthcare workers (14%) were the least likely.

Why the regret? 40% of respondents said they had quit without a new job lined up and the job market had proven more difficult than expected, while 22% said they missed the people at their old company. 17% said the new job was not what they hoped for, and 16% said their old job was better than they realised.

Recognising that ‘quitting regret’ is quite common, it’s telling that 23% of respondents said their previous employer had reached out to them about coming back after they had quit – with education (33%) and retail workers (30%) being the most likely to say they’d heard from their previous employer about returning. In 2023, more employers should be following their lead.

Why consider re-hiring former workers?

In addition to the time, money and resources saved in recruiting, there are multiple benefits to re-hiring boomerang employees, including the following:

  • They tend to be more productive and loyal. One study of 13,000 employees found that returning employees were more satisfied and committed than new hires. They were also far more likely to receive a promotion.

  • They are known entities. This works both ways: they already know your culture so if they’ve chosen to return, it’s a sign they were a good culture fit. That helps your business. For the returning employee, the usual angst and uncertainty of joining a new organisation and working with unfamiliar people disappears and the time taken to get up to full productivity improves.

  • They bring with them a wealth of new experiences, skills and knowledge. They might have knowledge of your competitors if that’s where they went to – and that’s invaluable in a competitive job market where knowledge of what competitors are doing well or not so well is worth its weight in gold. They might even provide a fresh perspective on how your organisation has changed – hopefully for the better – since they left.

3 tips to consider before re-hiring boomerang employees

While it seems like there’s nothing but a long list of benefits to be gained from re-hiring boomerangs, due diligence is still required. Here are 3 things to consider before taking the plunge.

1.      Don’t forget the hiring and onboarding formalities

It’s highly unlikely that a full onboarding process will be required, especially if it’s been less than 12 months since the employee departed and they are stepping back into the same role. However, keep in mind that the world is in constant motion – the processes, staff and culture would have all changed in the interim. So, a ‘pared back’ onboarding process might still be required – if only to introduce the new (old) hire to any co-workers who have joined since they departed.

Download Humanforce’s checklist for onboarding deskless workers in Australia and New Zealand.

While it might seem to go against the more casual familiarity that tends to go hand-in-hand with re-hiring former employees, it might also be helpful to revisit any exit interview notes or performance-related records that were taken during the employees’ previous tenure. Understanding why an employee left can only help with their retention second time around. If the person struggles to articulate why they want to return, that might set alarm bells ringing, especially if more pay is on offer. If they job hopped back to you for that reason alone, what’s to stop the same thing happening if a better pay offer comes up elsewhere?

2.      Be transparent about what you can offer

Despite the excitement (or relief) of once again seeing a familiar face, it pays to be honest and transparent about what you, as an employer, can offer. Returning employees have had new experiences, learnt new skills, and met new people since they’ve been gone. Can they expect to see some of that upon their return, or will it be back to the ‘same old, same old’ for them? Don’t over-promise and under-deliver, simply to get that familiar face back onboard. As always, hiring decisions need to benefit both the employee and the organisation. Neither party will benefit if a new hire – even if they are an ‘old hire’ – resigns after only a short time on the job because the promises didn’t live up to the reality.

3.      Evaluate the team response

It’s important to keep existing team members in the loop about what’s happening. Gather their thoughts and insights before making a final decision to re-hire. Were there any un-reported issues that might give pause? Is the former employee coming back on higher pay or be given more responsibility than previously, and if so will this cause friction?

Don’t burn those bridges!

Most employers with highly casualised workforces understand that there are only so many suitable, qualified candidates out there. It’s beneficial to stay connected to former employees, especially your stars. However, don’t expect them to come knocking at the door to be let back in. Be proactive. If possible, set up an alumni network so they can stay connected to company news and developments, ask your existing employees if they’re still in touch with them, and don’t be afraid to simply ‘check in’. You never know where it may lead.  

How Humanforce can help

Humanforce is a leading provider of shift-based workforce management solutions that simplify onboarding, scheduling, time and attendance, pay, employee engagement, and communication. Customers in more than 23 countries use Humanforce to optimise costs, realise compliance confidence, empower their team, and drive growth. Humanforce was founded in Sydney in 2002, and today has offices across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.  

For more information on how Humanforce can help your organisation to offer early access to earned wages, or to discover how our software can automate and simplify your workforce management processes, contact us or schedule a demo.