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The Benefits of Boomerang Employees

I was a boomerang employee in 1995. That means I left an organization and later returned. A couple of years later I was talking to a key executive about creatively finding some experienced accountants, and I suggested that we consider some people who had left the Firm in prior years. He said, “I would NEVER hire a boomerang employee.” Without reminding him that I was one, I asked “Why?” He said the person had left for a reason and would likely leave again, for the same reason.

I told him that I disagreed. Someone might have left for a reason that is no longer a factor, thinking the grass would be greener, or believing they would work fewer hours and ended up not doing so.

For me, I left the Firm in 1994 as I had an opportunity to move from an auditor role to a client CFO role with responsibility for accounting, HR, and internal operations. A few partners asked me the day I left if I would consider returning to a different position. I said yes and to call me when that position was officially available. The responsibilities, the learning, and the new industry were all fantastic, and I will never regret that career move. I kept in touch with many of the Firm’s staff and leaders, and, sure enough, a year later, they invited me to return to a role where I had responsibility for internal accounting, HR, and all non-client service staff. It was also fantastic, and I won’t regret that career move either. I stayed there another 6 years for a total of 15.

This move, though, also made me realize how many others might have returned if we had simply reached out to them and asked.

The Perks of Leaving then Coming Back

The idea of boomerang employees is not new, but it is having a sort of resurgence. A 2023 global Visier Insights Report found that almost 30% of external hires between 2020 and early 2022 were actually rehired employees.

Wow, 30%; that’s a significant number! And in 2020-2022, we had a seismic event that created tremendous changes, and employees may have left voluntarily or been forced out due to downsizing during that time. Many of those organizations might have grown, started offering more flexibility, or begun offering new and better benefits. The same is true for those employees who may now have different needs and skill sets. A 2022 UKG study of 4,000 employees in 6 countries reported that 43% of people who quit their roles during the previously mentioned time period reported they were better off at their old jobs.

Returning employees may also feel more grateful and/or appreciative of returning and may have more knowledge and skills allowing them to return to a higher level. Of course, their previous knowledge of the organization is significant in the transition as well.

The UKG survey also found employees returned because:

  • Their “new job” didn’t meet their expectations
  • They missed former co-workers, culture, and/or customers
  • They now can return to a higher-level role at greater pay

If your organization is hiring, consider reaching out to previous top performers.

  1. If you haven’t kept in touch and lost their phone or emails or want to be reminded of options, search on LinkedIn for people with your company name
  2. Host an alumni event and invite previous employees. Not only is this a good way to reconnect with prospective boomerangs, but some may work with current customers, suppliers, or vendors and can strengthen those relationships at the same time.

Looking for other ideas to attract top candidates? Purple Ink can help! Reach out here.

JoDee Curtis
JoDee Curtis
JoDee Curtis is the Founder of Purple Ink, author of several books in the JoyPowered® series, and co-host of The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast. She has a passion for helping organizations and individuals discover their talents, do more of what they do well through her speaking and training, and find joy in their work.

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