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Welcome Back! Businesses Open Doors to Former Employees

Welcome Back! Businesses Open Doors to Former Employees

While many employers used to say good riddance when an employee left for another job, more and more are now keeping an open mind about rehiring former staffers, new research finds.

More than three-quarters of employers are now more willing to welcome back an employee who left their organization, for whatever reason, according to a study by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. and WorkplaceTrends.com. This represents a change in attitude: Nearly half of the human resources managers surveyed said their company used to have a policy prohibiting the hiring of "boomerang employees" (i.e., those who left and then returned).

The study revealed that, although only 15 percent of the employees surveyed have boomeranged back to a former employer, nearly 40 percent would consider returning to a company where they once worked. Comparable pay, employee benefits and better career paths were the top reasons employees said they'd be open to heading back to a former employer.

Millennials are the generation most likely to boomerang: The research shows that 46 percent of millennials would consider returning to a former employer, compared with just 33 percent of Gen Xers and 29 percent of baby boomers. The study's authors said this could be a sign that millennial employees might be leaving organizations too soon.

Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends, said previous research has shown that millennials switch jobs every two years, on average, because they are searching for the job and employer that fit them best. [12 Things Millennials Care About More Than Company Culture ]

"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," Schawbel said in a statement.

Overall, 85 percent of the HR professionals surveyed have received job applications from former employees within the past five years. Of those, 40 percent have hired about half of the former employees who applied.

More than half of the HR professionals and managers surveyed said they prioritize job applicants who were former employees who left in good standing, while less than 10 percent don't give any priority to former colleagues.

The biggest reason for rehiring a former employee is because the person is already familiar with the company. The study discovered that nearly 40 percent of managers and 33 percent of HR professionals think that familiarity with the organization's culture is the biggest benefit to hiring boomerang employees, while nearly one-third of each group like that former workers don't require as much training as a brand-new employees.

"Organizations should consider giving hiring priority to potential boomerang employees who were a great cultural fit because they can reach a high productivity level quicker if rehired," Schawbel said.

Despite these findings, 80 percent of the employees surveyed said their former employers don't have a strategy in place to encourage them to return, with 64 percent saying there appears to be no plan for maintaining a relationship. Additionally, nearly half of the managers surveyed said their company has no alumni communications strategy.

"With this boomerang trend on the rise, it's more important than ever for organizations to create a culture that engages employees — even long after they've gone — and organizations should consider how the boomerang employee factor should affect their offboarding and alumni communications strategies for top performers," said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos.

The study was based on surveys of 601 HR professionals, 604 managers and 602 full-time, nonmanaging employees.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.