Staying on good terms with departing employees is a sound business strategy as many of those workers may someday return to their former employers. And while in the past organizations may have had policies against rehiring former employees, those types of policies are becoming less common.

“Boomerang” employees are becoming more prevalent, according to a new study commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos and WorkplaceTrends.com. Nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees – even if the employee left in good standing – but 76% say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past.

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And for good reason, as these employees come back into the organization with the huge benefit of already knowing company culture, policies and even, for the most part, the people.

“In an age defined by social media and job hopping, it’s much easier for employees to search for new opportunities and equally as easy for recruiters to poach talent from competitors,” says Joyce Maroney, director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos. “This fierce competition could be contributing to the changing mindset about boomerang employees.”

While the study noted only 15% of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, a larger number (40%) said they are open to the idea. And employers with a younger workforce should note the varying generational mindset:

  • 46% of millennials would consider returning to their former employer.
  • 33% of Gen Xers would consider returning to their former employer.
  • 29% of baby boomers would consider returning to their former employer.

“With this boomerang trend on the rise, it’s more important than ever for organizations to create a culture that engages employees – even long after they’ve gone – and organizations should consider how the boomerang employee factor should affect their off-boarding and alumni communications strategies for top performers,” Maroney adds.
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A good chunk of HR professionals (85%) have received a job application from a former employee, but only about half have hired one, finds the study.

“Organizations should consider giving hiring priority to potential boomerang employees who had been a great cultural fit because they can reach a high productivity level quicker if rehired,” adds Dan Schawbel, founder, WorkplaceTrends.

When employees were asked for the top reason they would go back to work for a former employer if the pay was comparable, benefits and a better career path tied for the No. 1 response (20% each), although a generational variation in responses was noted in the study.

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“In previous research we’ve done, we’ve found that millennials are switching jobs every two years because they are searching for the job – and organization – of best fit,” Schawbel notes. “But this new study indicates that this younger generation is more likely to boomerang back when they’ve experienced other company cultures and realized what they've missed. We will see the boomerang employee trend continue in the future as more employees adopt a free-agent mentality and more organizations create a stronger alumni ecosystem.”  

And although the idea of hiring boomerang employees might be appealing for some organizations, 80% of employees say their former employers lack any strategy to encourage them to return, with 64% saying there appears to be no strategy for maintaining a post-work relationship.

“This data show that it’s mutually beneficial for highly engaged employees with outstanding performance and organizations with strong cultures to part ways in good standing,” says David Almeda, chief people officer, Kronos. “The best boomerang strategy for forward-thinking organizations is to ensure that employees are engaged and feel appreciated while at work – that way if employees decide to leave to explore other career options, the organization will be on the short list of employer options if their career situation changes and they are looking for a more positive opportunity.”

Also see: Employer brand trumps job listing as recruiting tactic            

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