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More employers, employees finding what’s old is new again

When employees decide to leave a job and move on with their careers, they may think their last look at their old employer will be in the rearview mirror. But more and more, their goodbyes are morphing into hellos. A new study from staffing company Spherion shows a rise in the number of “boomerang” employees—people who leave an employer only to eventually return. 

The Spherion research shows that 29 percent of workers in its March 2016 WorkSphere Survey, which polled 1,000 employed U.S. adults, have returned to a former employer at least once in their careers. Plus, 52 percent of the employees reported working with at least one boomerang colleague, and 41 percent said they also would consider returning to a former employer.

“The trend is definitely growing as the job market becomes more competitive and employers are finding that rehiring a former employee takes less time to train than hiring a new employee,” says Stefanie Lomax, senior HR consultant for JLM HR Consulting.

In addition to being easier to train, returning employees are already familiar with the culture of the organization, another plus in a new hire. “In addition, having an engaged and high-performing employee leave, gain outside experiences, and then return can often create a win-win for both parties,” Lomax says.

Lomax is scheduled to present a Business & Legal Resources (BLR) webinar titled “The Boomerang Effect: To Rehire or Not to Rehire Former Employees Who Want to Return” on September 30.

Good, bad reasons to rehire
Ease of training and familiarity with culture are just a few benefits boomerang employees can bring. Lomax says rehiring former employees also can create positive employee morale for current employees and can put high-performing teams back together.

But employers also have good reasons for not rehiring former employees. “It may be a short-term rekindling,” Lomax says. “They may only be returning because they need a job, not because they are interested in loyalty.”

Also, if an employee left on bad terms, rehiring “may bring a sense of resentment among coworkers,” Lomax says.

As more people embark on boomerang employment, Lomax says she sees more employers taking steps designed to leave the door open for people they hope will one day return.

“Employers are increasingly willing to keep the lines of communication open, especially with employees who were great team members/contributors and engaged in their work,” Lomax says. “In fact, during exit interviews, this question is asked, with the intent of keeping the door open in the event that an opportunity presents itself for them to return.”

Advice to employers
Jennifer Carsen, an attorney and senior legal editor for BLR’s human resources and employment law publications, not only has the training to allow her to advise employers on when and whether to rehire former employees, she’s a boomeranger herself. She says she always enjoyed her job with BLR and liked her colleagues, but she left for a while because the job had evolved into something that wasn’t a good fit for her.

“When my current position became available, enabling me to return to the company AND work with people I already knew and liked, it was an easy decision to jump on it,” Carsen says.

An employer wanting to motivate a valued employee to return is wise to take steps to keep the person from leaving in the first place, Carsen says. “A simple, ‘Is there anything we can do to change your mind?’ after a resignation is tendered can do wonders. Barring that, staying in touch with former employees on a regular basis is always a good idea.”

Carsen stresses that it’s not a good idea to rehire an employee who was a poor fit or had a bad attitude. “Those things generally don’t change,” she says. “But if it was a situational thing, and that situation has changed, oftentimes a rehire makes a lot of sense.”

She also cautions that employers should be careful about assuming too much about what a returning employee knows about the company, especially if the absence was long. She says to be wary of “As I’m sure you remember” kind of statements. She reminds employers to keep in mind any policy or procedure changes that occurred while the employee was away.