A group of people in business dress sit around a table in a glass-walled conference room. A woman standing up shakes the hand of one of the men at the table.
Before you welcome a former employee back to your business, you should weigh the pros and cons of bringing in a boomerang employee. — Getty Images/Cecilie_Arcurs

A boomerang employee is a former employee who is rehired by the same company at a later date. Rehiring employees used to be relatively rare; however, like many things, the pandemic has changed the perception of boomerang employees. Research from Cornell University shows that boomerang employees are becoming more common and are actually a great source of talent for businesses. However, there are some things to consider before extending a new job offer to a former employee.

Pros of rehiring a boomerang employee

Especially in a tight labor market, boomerang employees can offer key benefits to your business.

First, the cost of rehiring a boomerang employee is typically lower than hiring a new one. Boomerang candidates are already familiar to and with the company; as a result, the hiring process can be shorter and use fewer resources. Instead of two or three rounds of rigorous vetting, boomerang employees can be rehired with just a conversation and salary negotiation. Onboarding takes less time too, since the employee already knows the systems, work culture and expectations of the business.

Research shows that, once hired, a boomerang employee is likely to outperform a new hire who is better qualified. Boomerang employees have the advantage of being familiar with the company’s processes and systems, as well as knowledge gained during their time away. Boomerang employees typically left for reasons beyond their control: to raise a family, to move to a new city or to pursue a new opportunity. When they return, often these employees have learned new skills, become re-energized or learned new ways to work that they can share with your business.

Rehiring former employees boosts your employer brand, too. Boomerang employees signal to other job candidates and employees the strength of your work culture. “Rehiring people has an amazing impact on your current workforce. They will tell the others how much ‘life is harder’ elsewhere. It reinforces your culture, stems leavers and gives someone who worked hard for you a warm welcome (back),” Carol MacKinlay, CPO at UserTesting, told Forbes.

Boomerang employees show that you are loyal to your team members, and vice versa.

[Read more: What to Know About Second Chance Hiring and Why It Could Help Solve Your Labor Problems]

Research from Cornell University shows that boomerang employees are becoming more common and are actually a great source of talent for businesses.

Caveats to rehiring boomerang employees

Not all former employees should be considered for rehiring. Consider why the employee left the first time: Was it to gain more experience, or were they a bad fit? You have the benefit of firsthand insight into the boomerang candidate’s work style and productivity. Take advantage of your shared history to understand the potential impact of bringing this person back.

You may also face criticism for unfair hiring by entertaining boomerang employees. “The hiring process should be transparent, fair and inclusive to justify the selection,” Dr. Kumar Abishek, VP & People Lead at S&P Global, told Forbes. “The selection should consider the maximum value generated for the role rather than just the familiarity with the firm. This will also help the current employees to collaborate well with the rehire.”

Likewise, timing is important. Look for someone who has been away from the company long enough to gain new skills and experiences, but can still see the immediate draw of returning to your business. Experts recommend reaching out to employees who departed within six months to a year.

[Read more: How to Hire a Temporary Employee]

Finally, evaluate 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. Some boomerang employees have gained more experience in the interim and may ask for higher pay as a result. Can you afford to rehire someone at a higher salary? Consider what circumstances have changed, or may need to still change, to bring back a valued employee who left for better advancement opportunities, flexible hours or higher pay.

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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