HR Management & Compliance, Recruiting

Boomerangers: A New Breed of Employee

That dreaded moment when a valued employee tenders their resignation generally feels like a time for mourning—and scrambling to fill the void. But, this can also be an opportunity to set the stage for a continuing relationship that can provide a pathway for reengagement. After all, the grass isn’t always greener, and some employees—even very good employees—will come to wish they hadn’t taken a position with another company. When they do, wouldn’t it be nice if they thought of you?

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It’s an opportunity that many companies are failing to take advantage of, according to a 2017 survey by CareerXroads, which indicates that only 9.8% of companies surveyed said they had a “formal program to engage (and potentially rerecruit) alumni/former employees”—also referred to as “boomerang” employees.
Sodexo is one company that has seen the opportunity and is actively capitalizing on it. Its program has been in place for 8 years and is already reaping the benefits. According to a Huffington Post article:
  • Sodexo’s community of former employees numbers 8,000.
  • 20% of external hires have been from their alumni program—which they call Reconnexions.
  • 44% of these returning employees have a higher retention rate than other external hires.

As the low percentage of employers poised to accept boomerang employees suggests, not all are convinced that this is a good route to take. One challenge to overcome: the hesitance on the part of some managers to accept the idea of departed employees returning to the fold. Another:
Not all employees are those you might wish to welcome back.
But these and other objections can be addressed through communication and case studies, like Sodexo’s. It’s important to recognize, too, that there are no guarantees that the right job will open up or that a particular former employee will be the right fit given the field of candidates he or she may compete with.
The tide is shifting in favor of considering former employees as viable candidates. A Workplace Trends survey indicated that almost one-half of the HR respondents surveyed said their organizations traditionally had policies against considering these former employees; 76% now said that they would be more accepting of them.
Paving the way for their successful return requires some formality around the process to include:

  • Ensuring supervisors and managers are trained to appropriately address the departure to maintain the relationship.
  • Establishing some means of continued contact—online groups, many on LinkedIn, are a good way to do this, and can also be used to post job openings as they come up.
  • Making sure that all understand there are no guarantees that former employees will be put to the front of the candidate list if they choose to reapply.

Finally, create some fanfare around returning employees—announce their return in employee newsletters, intranet sites, etc. Their positive stories about how great they found the company to be after leaving can help to dissuade others from jumping ship in the future!