Moving Forward, Hiring Backwards: The Trajectory of Boomerang Employment

With the job market making a comeback, employees are also making a comeback – to the very same employers. These workers who return to their previous employers after resigning or being laid off are called boomerang employees. Once stigmatized, boomerang hiring is gaining new ground.

According to a 2015 survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and, nearly half of the 1,800 human resources professionals polled claimed their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employers, but 76 percent said they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past.

Charles Rodriguez, Senior Director of Human Capital Management at Adams-Keegan, sees this as a natural response to the business climate.

"With employers right now, there is an empirical talent shortage, and what's worse is an even stronger perception of that talent shortage," says Rodriguez. "People are less willing to gamble, and they want a known quantity. That's what's driving employers to be more open to the idea of people going away and collecting skills and coming back."

In the same survey, only 15 percent of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, but nearly 40 percent said they would consider going back to a previous employer.

The generational breakdown of the data supports the theory that boomeranging is for the young. Of employees surveyed, 46 percent of millennials would consider returning to their former employer, compared to 33 percent of Gen Xers and 29 percent of Baby Boomers.

At Adams Keegan, we share the viewpoint that it's good to let employees leave, pick up new skills and come back to you. We see smart companies doing this. When former employees do return, these employees have added value, which means they'll cost more. On the other hand, they can cost less to recruit, get up to speed faster, require less training, and have the potential to boost morale.

If rehiring former employees is part of a company's talent strategy, we recommend laying the foundation for a boomerang employee before he or she even leaves. A well-conducted exit interview provides an ideal opportunity to gain insight into why that person is leaving and talk to about the possibility of coming back.