What is a Boomerang Employee?

Learn about boomerang employees and how rehiring them can impact your company.

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If you’ve had a worker leave your company voluntarily and then come back, they’re a boomerang employee

Careers in 2020 are nothing like careers were in 1950. People very, very rarely spend 20 or 30 years working for the same company like in the past.

That means that companies of all sizes — small businesses included — are hiring, training, and losing employees constantly. In fact, workers are moving around so much that it’s not rare at all for someone to leave a company only to return back to it later. This scenario happens so much that there’s actually a term for it: boomerang employee.

What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee does much the same thing that a boomerang itself does — leaves and then comes back.

As mentioned above, it’s pretty cut and dry. A boomerang employee does much the same thing that a boomerang itself does — leaves and then comes back. So it goes with a boomerang employee.

Why boomerang employees leave

Whether it’s for personal reasons, professional reasons, or some combination of both, a boomerang employee is someone who quits their current company in some way, shape, or form. While it’s typically for another job, it can be for any reason. Maybe they want to leave the formal workforce altogether and opt for something like stay-at-home parenting or full-time freelancing. Perhaps they choose to quit because a partner’s job is taking them somewhere new.

Whatever the reason, the general characteristic of a boomerang employee is that they leave on their own accord rather than through termination or their employer pushing them out.

Another reason why an employee might boomerang is because they aren’t getting the promotional opportunities they want, even though they love the company. So, if there’s a higher position available somewhere else, a boomerang employee might take the new job, leave for some amount of time, and then translate their new experience and pay grade into a promotion at their original company.

Sometimes it’s as simple as an employee taking a new job and realizing that it’s not nearly what they were promised and deciding to come back to their original company. Other times employees will boomerang for no other reason than:

  • Curiosity
  • A desire to try something new
  • To pursue a hobby or passion they’ve always wanted to

Then there are boomerang employees who are more or less seasonal employees who work for a company during a certain time or season every year but do something outside of that for the rest of the year.

If there’s a higher position available somewhere else, a boomerang employee might take the new job, leave for some amount of time, and then translate their new experience and pay grade into a promotion at their original company.

Why boomerang employees come back

Again, for varying reasons, what makes someone a boomerang employee is their eventual return to the company they once left.

Reasons why employees boomerang back are just as varied and individualized as the reasons people leave. It could be that they had to move, but now there are remote working opportunities at their company that there weren’t before (think pre-pandemic).

Some might feel more equipped to do their old job now that they have new experiences and perspectives to bring back to the company that they didn’t have before. Maybe it took them leaving to realize that their old gig wasn’t so bad after all … or maybe it took their employer realizing that they should have been doing more to promote and retain talent than they were previously.

Boomerang employees can be excellent rehires

There are plenty of obvious pros of rehiring someone. First, they’re already familiar with your company and its culture. Chances are the employee was a good match for their job previously, so you can take that whole question out of the equation. Naturally, there are likely far fewer hiring costs for bringing someone back onto the team than there are for recruiting, hiring, and training new people.

Reasons to think twice about boomerang employees, though

They did leave for a reason and it’s important to find out why that is. If what made them want to leave in the first place is still the same, it might make them want to leave again, so it’s worth investigating why they think this time around will be better for them.

Especially if they’re boomeranging back into a higher position that before, you’ll want to vet them just as you would any other hire for that level of a position. Just because they said they gained new skills at the job they left for doesn’t mean that they did, so why not ask for references just like you would for anyone else?

The boomerang trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so think about how you feel about them and their role at your business. It’s something you’ll have to consider at some point so why not now?

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