Finlay James

Welcome Back: The Rise of the Boomerang

Welcome Back: The Rise of the Boomerang

Paul Pogba, Mark Hughes, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Jose Mourinho….…what do all of these people have in common? They are all examples of ‘boomerang employees’ – those who leave your organisation for whatever reason and then return to work for you at some point later on.

Historically, organisations have discouraged the rehiring of former employees - Michael Bloomberg’s autobiography revealed that he would never rehire anyone once they had left Bloomberg – whilst many employees would never dream of working for a former employer. However it appears that more and more companies are actually looking to recruit past top performers back into their businesses and an increasing number of employees are open to reapplying.

Research by recruiters Robert Half shows that the practice is now widely accepted, with 83% of HR executives in the UK reporting that they are more open to rehiring a returning employee than they would have been three years ago.

Furthermore, over the last 20 years, the number of companies people worked for in the first five years after they graduated has nearly doubled, according to a recent LinkedIn study. In this age of job-hopping, portfolio careers and the gig economy it is not surprising therefore, that millennials are leading the way with regard to the boomerang trend. A survey by the Workplace Trends shows that almost half of the millennials surveyed for the study said they would consider returning to a former employer — compared to about one-third of both Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Dan Schawbel, founder, of WorkplaceTrends.com, suggests that: “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 organisation – of best fit. 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.”

At Finlay James we have had a lot of experience of boomerangs in the last eight years. Many of these left us to go travelling, others because they thought the grass would be greener elsewhere only to return after being disappointed. When asked, they said they returned due to the ‘supportive environment’, ‘relaxed company culture’ and ‘autonomy’.

So, as an employer what would I see to be the main advantages of hiring a boomerang employee?

  • Familiarity with your organisation: An in-depth understanding of the culture, people, policies, technology and clients used within your workplace, hiring an old employee can actually save time and money.
  • Reduced on-boarding and training costs: Research shows that the cost of hiring a new staff member can total up to £30,000, due to the cost of waiting for new starters to get up to speed plus recruitment and training fees.
  • Morale booster: Current employees will see that ex-colleagues have returned to the organisation helping to show that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and thereby increasing retention.
  • New perspective: Boomerangs that have been away for a few years also have direct business value, as they may bring with them new experiences, ideas, connections, and even potential customers. Combined with their grounded understanding of your firm, these new ideas and skills can help bolster your team’s performance, by contributing to projects and sharing their new found knowledge with colleagues.
  • Expanded skillset: Some organisations even see the value and potential cost savings in allowing employees to leave to expand their experience and skills whilst leaving the door open for them to return at a later date.

My advice for employers is by accepting that millennials are more likely to job-hop than previous generations, and having a specific strategy for boomerang employees, could help organisations in the war for talent. Creating LinkedIn or Facebook groups specifically for former employees to stay connected is just one way to do this. My advice for employees is do not burn any bridges at your former workplace. You never know when you may want to return.