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Should You Hire a ‘Boomerang’ Employee?

Kaylyn McKenna
Kaylyn McKenna
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Updated May 05, 2022

Filling open roles is increasingly challenging for employers. Could former employees be the answer?

  • When former employees reapply to their old companies, it can create a conundrum for business owners. 
  • Hiring boomerang employees can be an attractive option because they’re easier to train and onboard.
  • Even if an employee wants to return, it’s still crucial to determine why they initially left and whether their return is a good idea. 
  • This article is for small business owners and hiring managers trying to decide whether to rehire a former employee.

When an employee leaves your company, that’s generally the end of your relationship. Their time with the business is over, and you expect them to move on for good. However, it’s becoming increasingly common to see some familiar names applying to new job postings.

Many employees are choosing to return to past employers for a second chance. Perhaps they quit due to family obligations or health, or needed time to explore other opportunities to promote their professional development. Now that some time has passed, they may feel ready to return to your company. But is hiring a “boomerang” employee the right choice for your team?

Did you know?Did you know?: Low salary is the No. 1 reason employees quit their jobs, followed by lack of employee benefits and feeling overworked.

What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee is an employee who previously worked for a company and left but then returns to work for the company again. This is becoming increasingly common. 

Today, employees are no longer necessarily seen as disloyal if they leave a business. Owners and managers recognize that employees may work at many organizations as they map out their career paths

Also, with social media platforms and communication-enhancing technologies, people are more likely to stay in contact and reconnect professionally.

Pros and cons of hiring a boomerang employee

Rehiring a former employee can be a win-win, but it’s not the right solution for every organization or situation. We’ll examine some of the upsides and downsides of hiring a boomerang employee. 

Pros of hiring a boomerang employee

Employees can leave for myriad reasons, both personal and professional. Regardless of how either party felt upon the employee’s resignation, there are a few clear advantages to rehiring someone who used to work for you:

  • Boomerang employees can get up to speed quickly. Amber Hyatt, a certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR) and U.S. director of consumer experience at Johnson & Johnson Vision, noted that boomerang employees possess essential preexisting knowledge about your company. “Hiring former employees means familiarity with your business – the mission, culture, values, players, training and organizational structure are already in place. This familiarity lends itself to an expedited time to productivity, greatly benefiting the organization.”
  • You understand the boomerang employee’s skills. Every prospective employee says they’re skilled, hard-working, timely and meticulous during the interview process. However, in most cases, you don’t actually get to see them in action until after you’ve hired them. With a boomerang employee, you have a record of their performance and attendance and understand if they have the in-demand career skills you’re currently seeking.
  • Boomerang employees can boost employee morale. Boomerang employees can boost morale among existing staff members, said Samantha Lambert, director of human resources at Blue Fountain Media. “These employees can attest to the improvements in processes, quality of work and management from when they first worked here.”
  • Boomerang employees bring a new perspective to their old workplace. While exploring other ventures, the employee likely gained some new skills and experiences. They may have even worked for a competitor or two, allowing them to return to your company with a new perspective on what worked and didn’t work at those other businesses.

TipTip: Before hiring a boomerang employee, check their records, including performance reviews, instead of relying on memory. Performance issues or incidents may have slipped your mind.

Cons of hiring a boomerang employee

Consider some potential drawbacks before welcoming back a former employee. 

  • Boomerang employees may be resistant to change. If they’re returning because they miss your business’s management or company culture, boomerang employees may be unhappy to find that things have changed in their absence. Many long-term employees resist changes in procedures, policies and leadership. Boomerang employees are no exception. If they feel the old way of doing things was better, they may share their preferences with newer co-workers, potentially hurting employee morale.
  • You may be ignoring stronger candidates. Hiring boomerang employees can feel like a quick fix if you’re short-staffed. However, it’s essential to avoid getting tunnel vision. Put the boomerang employee and other top candidates through the entire hiring process. You want the best person for the role, and that’s not always going to be the boomerang employee.
  • Boomerang employees may have unresolved issues. Carefully consider why the employee quit the first time. Could there be any lingering resentment from their previous employment term? Was there any drama around their departure that could make other employees unhappy about their return? Fully explore what made them leave, and revisit their exit interview, if possible, to determine whether there will be a better fit this time around.
  • Boomerang employees can still be a flight risk. There’s no guarantee that your boomerang employee is in it for the long haul. Sometimes an employee returns to a previous employer because it seems like an easy, comfortable option while waiting for the next opportunity. And, if the issues that caused them to quit haven’t been resolved to their satisfaction, they are likely to quit again.

Key TakeawayFYI: If you decide to hire a boomerang employee, the best HR software will streamline employee paperwork and onboarding. Read our review of Gusto and our Paychex Flex review to learn more.

How to onboard a boomerang employee

Boomerang employees should go through the entire onboarding process even though they’ve worked for you before. These are some benefits of properly onboarding your boomerang employee: 

  • They’ll meet new managers. A complete onboarding will allow your boomerang to get acquainted with new managers or team leads. This is crucial because a management change can significantly impact how a company or team operates.
  • They’ll learn about policy changes. During your boomerang employee’s onboarding process, you have a chance to review the employee handbook and point out any significant policy or process changes since their initial departure.

You’ll also need to consider how to handle issues related to seniority or years of service when onboarding a boomerang employee. If employee perks like vacation time are tied to years of service, consider putting a policy in place about whether a boomerang employee’s initial employment term will count toward their total years of service.

Welcoming back a boomerang employee is an opportunity for employers to leverage the returning employee’s prior experience with the company as they adjust to the new role, Hyatt said.

“Especially in cases of a high performer, the organization has a tremendous opportunity to immediately build confidence in [that person’s] abilities with the new team, including how [they] embraced the organizational culture and [became] a brand ambassador,” Hyatt said. “A boomerang [employee] returning provides a real-life example to current employees that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere.”

Nicole Fallon contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit:

monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Kaylyn McKenna
Kaylyn McKenna
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Kaylyn McKenna is a freelance writer specializing in business, tech, and leadership. She received her MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Touro University, and enjoys using her industrial psychology background to share management, HR, and organizational effectiveness tips with small business owners. She has covered topics related to business law, compliance, employee retention, company culture, and management strategies.