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Boomerang employees are easier to onboard because they likely already know a great amount about how your company operates. — Getty Images/MangoStar_Studio

A boomerang employee is someone who left the company, but then returns to work for the same company at a later date.

Typically, boomerang employees leave of their own accord, rather than being dismissed. And, since the pandemic has contributed to the movement known as the “Great Resignation,” boomerang employees are also on the rise. Here’s what you need to know about boomerang employees, and why you should consider rehiring someone who has left your company in the past.

The rise of boomerang employees

Between April and August of 2021, nearly 20 million employees voluntarily resigned, citing burnout and stress among other reasons. Many workers needed time off to recalibrate and recharge, while others faced home stress like caregiving, homeschooling or trying to manage feelings of isolation during intermittent lockdowns and quarantines.

Recently, hiring managers have reported an uptick in former employees reaching back out once they're in a place to begin working again. There are many reasons why an employee may wish to return to a former employer, and vice versa: Employers can benefit from rehiring these boomerang employees, too.

[Read more: 5 Small Business Owners Share Their Best Hiring Hacks]

Benefits of boomerang employees

Boomerangs are an attractive group of job candidates, especially for small business owners. Boomerang employees require less onboarding and hiring resources. Rather than go through a phone screen and multiple rounds of interviews, boomerang candidates can be rehired after one or two conversations. Because recruiters know the boomerang candidate, the recruiting process is shorter and less expensive.

Millions of open jobs and nowhere near enough applicants have created a shift in power that has given job seekers the upper hand in recruiting and hiring.

Roy Maurer, The Society for Human Resource Management

Onboarding is also a shorter process. Since the boomerang employee is already familiar with the business and their colleagues, transitioning back to work is more seamless. Research from Cornell University shows that boomerang employees almost always outperform their peers. This trend is because boomerang employees have often learned new skills while away or are reenergized to come back as more productive workers than before.

Likewise, an employee who returns can also be a boost for the company’s employer brand. “It’s a good signal for an organization to say, ‘Even if you left on your own and changed your mind, we’re willing to bring people back,’” Brian Swider, a management professor at the University of Florida, told CNBC.

When should you hire a boomerang employee?

Today’s job market is competitive. “Millions of open jobs and nowhere near enough applicants have created a shift in power that has given job seekers the upper hand in recruiting and hiring,” wrote the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Boomerang employees may have previously been frowned upon, but more and more businesses are realizing their value.

The key to hiring a boomerang employee is timing. Companies should look for boomerang employees who have been away from the company long enough to gain new skills and experiences. At the same time, look for candidates who can still see the immediate draw of returning to your business. Ideally, consider reaching out to former employees who departed within six months to a year.

[Read more: 6 Recruiting Strategies to Improve Your Talent Pipeline]

Before you reach out to these employees, it’s important to recognize how, if at all, your work environment has changed. If you’ve added remote work tools that enable an employee to work from a different city, for instance, you’ll have more luck recruiting a boomerang rehire. You may also expect the boomerang employee to ask for higher pay. Consider what circumstances have changed, or may need to still change, to bring back a valued employee who left for greener pastures.

Ultimately, boomerang employees are a trend that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. The more open and understanding you can be to employees who want to return, the more your business can benefit from their skills, experience and loyalty.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 31, 2022