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Bringing back boomerangers

Monday September 14, 2015 Written by  Retain Canada
There’s a new type of candidate circling the hiring pool: the boomerang employee.

A new survey released by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and reveals a changing mindset about hiring boomerang employees who leave an organization and then rejoin it in the future.

“In an age defined by social media and job hopping, it’s much easier for employees to search for new opportunities and equally as easy for recruiters to poach talent from competitors. This fierce competition could be contributing to the changing mindset about boomerang employees,” said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos. “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 off-boarding and alumni communications strategies for top performers.”

The national survey of more than 1,800 human resources (HR) professionals, people managers, and employees across the United States shows that employee engagement should not end once the working relationship is over, especially between high-performing alumni and organizations with a strong corporate culture. However, this era of the boomerang employee creates a unique type of competition for job seekers and new challenges for organizations to maintain relationships with former high-performers.

Coming around on boomerang employees

Nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees – even if the employee left in good standing – but 76 per cent say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than they were in the past. Managers agree; nearly two-thirds said they are more accepting of hiring back former colleagues.

While only 15 per cent of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, nearly 40 per cent said they would consider going back to a company where they previously worked.

Forty-six per cent of Millennials would consider returning to their former employer, compared to 33 per cent of Gen Xers and 29 per cent of Baby Boomers. In an era where job-hopping amongst young professionals has become the norm, this could suggest that Millennial employees might be leaving organizations too soon.

“Organizations should consider giving hiring priority to potential boomerang employees who had been a great cultural fit because they can reach a high productivity level quicker if rehired,” said Dan Schawbel, founder of and New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself. “In previous research we’ve done, we’ve found that Millennials are switching jobs every two years because they are searching for the job – and organization – of best fit. 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. We will see the boomerang employee trend continue in the future as more employees adopt a ‘free agent’ mentality and more organizations create a stronger alumni ecosystem.”

Increased competition in the hiring market

In the past five years, 85 per cent of HR professionals say they have received job applications from former employees, and 40 per cent say their organization hired about half of those former employees who applied.

This high hiring rate is not surprising, since HR professionals (56 per cent) and managers (51 per cent) say they give high or very high priority to job applicants who were former employees that left in good standing. Conversely, only six and nine per cent, respectively, said they give zero priority to former colleagues.

Boomerangs are not the only type of job seeker adding increased competition, as 75 per cent of HR professionals say that customers have also applied for positions at their organization. Sixty per cent said they have hired at least one former customer.

Easier training and knowledge of employer

HR professionals (33 per cent) and managers (38 per cent) agree that familiarity with the organization’s culture is the biggest benefit to hiring back former employees, while nearly one-third appreciate that boomerangs do not require as much training as a brand new employee.

When employees were asked for the top reason they would go back to work for a former employer if pay was comparable, employee benefits and better career path tied for the number one response (20 per cent each). However, this answered varied greatly by generation.

“No one organization is the right fit for every employee and vice versa. Sometimes making a change is the best thing for both the employee and the employer. But this data shows that it’s mutually beneficial for highly engaged employees with outstanding performance and organizations with strong cultures to part ways in good standing,” said David Almeda, chief people officer with Kronos. “The best boomerang strategy for forward-thinking organizations is to ensure that employees are engaged and feel appreciated while at work – that way if employees decide to leave to explore other career options, the organization will be on the short list of employer options if their career situation changes and they are looking for a more positive opportunity.”

But while the overall acceptance of boomerang employees has changed direction, HR professionals and managers still have concerns. Nearly one-third of HR professionals and managers claim boomerang employees have a stigma hanging over their heads that they might leave again, and more than one-quarter say these employees may have the same baggage they originally left with.

Maintaining relationships with former employees

HR says they have a strategy for maintaining relationships with former employees, but workers and managers disagree. While organizations appear increasingly more accepting of boomerang applicants, 80 per cent of employees say former employers do not have a strategy in place to encourage them to return. Sixty-four per cent say there appears to be no strategy for maintaining a relationship.

Nearly half of all surveyed managers say their organization has no alumni communication strategy.

HR practitioners, on the other hand, say they use several strategies for keeping in touch with former high-performing employees, including email newsletters (45 per cent), recruiters (30 per cent), and alumni groups (27 per cent).

According to HR professionals, Facebook (42 per cent) is the platform of choice for alumni groups. Email (39 per cent) and LinkedIn (33 per cent) are close behind.

Research findings are based on a survey fielded in the U.S. between July 14 and 22. For this survey, 1,807 respondents were asked about their thoughts regarding various aspects of corporate culture and employee engagement. The study surveyed three separate groups: HR professionals (601 surveys); people managers (604 surveys); and full-time, non-managing employees (602 surveys). The survey was completed through Lightspeed GMI’s Global Test Market double opted-in panelists who have registered to participate in online surveys.

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