'Boomerang' employees are growing in numbers - HR teams should pay attention
- 4 Min Read
56% of people would return to their most recent employer, underscoring the importance of employers offboarding their workforce positively
New research from Right Management has revealed 56% of UK employees would return to their former employer, cementing the trend of ‘boomerang’ behaviour in the market.
Boomerang employees are individuals who leave a company for various reasons, such as better opportunities, personal reasons, or dissatisfaction, and then later return to work for the same organization.
This trend has become more common in recent years as the job market evolves and organizations recognize the value of rehiring former employees who already understand the company culture, processes, and may bring new skills or experiences from their time away.
Boomerang employees can provide several benefits, including reduced training costs, quicker onboarding, and potentially increased loyalty and engagement since they chose to return to the company. Employers may actively encourage this phenomenon by maintaining positive relationships with former employees through alumni networks or keeping in touch with promising former staff members.
“Some employers are missing a trick in terms of the potential for boomerang employees, with just over half of employees saying they would return to their old employer” says Sarah Hernon, principal consultant at Right Management.
“This is a large pool of employees that can be hired back into an organisation and culture they’re well aligned to, which is highly valuable given current labour shortages. However, employers need to create a smooth leaving process to ensure this is a feasible option in future.”
No sour taste
With the majority of exiting staff open to returning one day, forward-thinking companies have a prime opportunity to facilitate boomerang rehires. But this involves more than just keeping the door open – it requires ushering employees out with an uplifting experience.
The process starts well before any paperwork is pushed. Managers should schedule thoughtful exit discussions to show a genuine interest in the individual’s growth path. What pull factors lead them elsewhere? What aspects of the role proved frustrating? Approaching talks as a two-way exchange builds bonds, rather than bridging burned bridges.
The last working weeks present another chance to reinforce goodwill. Cross-training colleagues to handle transitional duties prevents desperation demands on the departing employee. A celebratory lunch or happy hour sends the message that relationships trump any temporary role loss.
The final days should center on tying up loose ends. Reconfirm benefits continuance post exit. Make sure owed reimbursements, severance payments, or any company property exchanges have occurred. Offer to directly introduce connections that may aid their next venture.
The goodbye itself deserves recognition. Present a parting gift from the team, like a memory book signed by coworkers. Frame the move as a transition for both parties, with opportunities for individual and company development ahead. Managers should compliment the expertise and achievements contributed, while expressing eagerness to someday reconnect.
With care and planning, the departure process can cultivate good feelings. This ultimately saves time and resources should boomerang employees decide their best career home remains where they started.
How to have the tough coversations?
Right management’s research also showed that more than half of UK employees believe handing in their notice came as a shock to their managers.
“Managers shouldn’t really be feeling shocked when an employee hands in their notice, as they should be constantly temperature-checking overall sentiment by having regular, open and honest check-ins,” says Hernon.
“These should be in place to discuss not only the day-to-day but also how an individual can build their career, and what measures need to be in place to help achieve their personal goals – whether that’s extra training, new projects or times spent with colleagues from other departments.”
The research – which surveyed more than 2,000 UK employees – uncovered that 56% of respondents said that handing in their notice came as a shock to their managers, with only a quarter (27%) of people saying their notice was welcomed.
“Annual appraisals no longer fit the mould; managers need to keep up to speed with workers’ career goals and aspirations in the moment, so they can spot flight risks before it’s too late,” says Hernon.
In addition, the survey of British employees found that 62% of people said they would be honest in their exit interview, as well as 56% of respondents saying they would return to their most recent employer.
“With more than half of employees saying they would be honest in their exit interview, it’s important for business leaders and owners to take note and to make good use of feedback to help make improvements,” says Hernon.
“Maintaining positive morale and retaining strong talent is an ongoing challenge for organisations, but it can be combatted by ensuring the exit interview is not just treated as a tick-box exercise, with feedback acted upon and communicated within their teams.”