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The pros and cons of hiring boomerang employees

Returning, or 'boomerang,' employees can bring plenty of advantages, such as faster onboarding, but disadvantages can include employee complacency. Learn about the pros and cons.

Employees leave companies for all sorts of reasons -- more pay, better opportunities or running from a bad manager -- but they don't always sever ties permanently. Companies can potentially benefit from hiring back old workers, or "boomerang" employees, but leaders should consider the decision carefully, as doing so can also come with potential problems.

Boomerang employees made up 4.5% of all new hires in 2021, an increase from 3.9% in 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal. Boomerang employees are known entities who are familiar with the company and might have gained new skills while they were gone. But former employees might struggle to fit in with a new culture, and current employees might feel resentful if a boomerang employee is promoted above them.

Here's more about some boomerang employee pros and cons to consider.

The pros of hiring a boomerang employee

Rehiring a former employee could potentially improve a company's operations in various ways.

Faster onboarding

Onboarding can be a difficult process, but a boomerang employee doesn't need to learn as much about the company as a completely new hire.

Onboarding a boomerang employee can be easier and more cost-effective because it might not take as long, said Robin Schooling, director of talent strategy at Humareso, an HR consultancy located in Vero Beach, Fla.

"They will more likely than not understand the company hierarchy and how to get things done," Schooling said.

Improved teamwork

Boomerang employees can bring a new perspective to their teams.

They won't be stuck in the "this is how we've always done it" mentality and can potentially bring new insights from working elsewhere, such as new approaches, Schooling said.

Because they might already know their team members, they can also improve work processes.

They come in with more swagger because, as a boomerang, [the company] voted for them twice.
Kristopher PotrafkaVice president of HR, Ambiq

The boomerang employee's team can potentially move faster and be more productive than if a new employee had joined, because the boomerang employee already knows the organization's culture and team processes, said Kristopher Potrafka, vice president of HR at Ambiq, an electronics manufacturer located in Austin, Texas.

Improved employee loyalty

Rehiring the employee expresses confidence in them, so they will likely feel valued.

A boomerang employee will likely start making contributions right away because they feel confident, Potrafka said.

"They come in with more swagger because, as a boomerang, [the company] voted for them twice," he said.

Bringing back a former employee can also send positive signals to their co-workers.

Doing so demonstrates to other employees that the company values and respects its former workers, said Jessica Glazer, strategic recruitment director at MindHR, a recruitment agency located in Montreal. Hiring former employees can potentially boost morale and employee loyalty.

The cons of hiring a boomerang employee

Bringing back employees can also mean bringing back the problems from their initial time with the organization. Company leaders should be aware of the potential issues that come with boomerang employees.

Boomerang employee complacency

Boomerang employees might feel a bit too comfortable, which could negatively affect their job performance.

Since boomerang employees have already worked at the company once, they might feel that they already know the job and don't need to put in as much effort, Glazer said. They might also lack the fresh ideas and perspectives that a new employee would bring to the organization.

The return of old issues

The boomerang employee left the first time for a reason, and those past problems could affect the employee's current performance.

The rehire might not be a good fit if the issue that caused the boomerang employee to leave in the first place -- such as an organizational issue or their relationship with a co-worker -- is still in play, Schooling said.

Company leaders should also make sure they know the true reason that the boomerang employee is leaving their current employment.

"Make sure that the returning employee is coming back because they're running to you, not running away from something else," Schooling said.

Negative culture effects

Some employees might not like that the boomerang employee is coming back. Their return could negatively affect the organization's culture and cause resentments.

If an employee returns and receives a better title or higher pay than workers who have stayed with the company the whole time, other employees might feel jealous, Schooling said.

In addition, the boomerang employee might not be on board with cultural changes that occurred during their absence.

A boomerang employee might try to continue using old procedures and be resistant to new working methods, Potrafka said.

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