Boomerang hires: How to keep the employees who come back

After the "Great Resignation," many are finding out the grass isn't always greener. Learn what employers need to know.

Individual raising their hand in a meeting

The 'Great Resignation' saw Americans go on a quitting spree, with around four million workers leaving their jobs each month. Tempted by recruiters dangling promises of pumped-up paychecks, better work-life balance, and other benefits, they're now finding that the grass isn't always greener.

'Quitters' remorse' – or 'Great Resignation regret' – is setting in, prompting ever-more workers to boomerang back to their old jobs. And according to Anthony Klotz, the Texas-based associate professor of management who coined the term "Great Resignation," the upsurge in boomerang hires could last as long as five years.

Riding the boomerang hiring wave

As employers' hiring woes persist, they see vast potential in the alumni talent pool. Rehires ramp up much faster than new hires while bringing back invaluable knowledge and skills. They can show higher engagement levels: A small study of IT professionals who'd boomeranged to old employers found that the entire sample was more satisfied with their job after returning. Plus, rehiring could save you as much as two-thirds on recruiting costs and even encourage workers thinking of calling it quits to reconsider.

But employers should tread carefully. Boomerang employees left for a reason. That reason could wind up pushing them towards the door a second time. It's crucial to understand and address why they left in the first place. Your existing employees will thank you for your efforts, too.

Here's how to attract and keep boomerang employees for the long haul:

Ask questions

Filter out any high-risk rehires by probing their motives. It might be they were lured away by better title or a higher salary, but it turns out the culture or work/life balance wasn’t worth the trade-off. You also need to know why they left in the first place. If they were overwhelmed by their past position’s heavy workload – and nothing has changed since they left – it’s likely they will burn out again over the same issues. Sometimes though, minor tweaks to their role might be all that’s needed.

Consider a promotion

If your candidate isn’t already applying to a higher-level role, consider offering them a promotion – especially if you’re thrilled to have them back. It’s good for retention, and depending on how long they were gone, there can be a lot of value in the experience boomerang employees gained during their time away. The new perspectives and learning can radiate to existing employees and breathe fresh life into tired processes and projects at your company. (Overhauling benefits can be an enticing sweetener for boomerang hires if budgets are tight.)

Think of the team

It is important to consider a boomerang employee's likely impact on team dynamics. What’s changed since they left? Would team members welcome their old coworker back, or could the move prove toxic? Don't rely on instinct. Listen carefully to your team’s responses when they learn their former coworker is in the interview process. Also remember: Seeing that a past employee is returning can signal to your current staff that the grass isn’t always greener at your competitors.

Reboard returning workers

This is another important reason to ask questions. They can help you develop targeted reboarding for boomerang hires. If your employee was only gone for a few months, it's probably enough to go over any changes since they left. Or consider setting up a ‘returnship,’ a short onboarding program focused on reorienting and reskilling boomerang employees. It will help them get back up to speed and understand your current workplace dynamics. Otherwise, make it your policy to put boomerang hires through the entire new hire orientation process. You'll get the time you invest back multifold in accelerated ramp-up time.

So, will your next hire be a rehire? Boomerang hiring is a relatively new phenomenon, and many companies may be unprepared for this new dynamic. Working with a trusted staffing partner can help you understand employees’ top motivators, whether you've worked with them before or not. Learn more about our staffing solutions and talk to us for tailored advice.