Definition of Boomerang Employee

December 14, 2023
Boomerang Employee

A boomerang employee leaves your company and returns later (precisely like a boomerang would).

What is a boomerang employee?

Careers in 2023 are nothing they were in the 1950s. People rarely spend 20 or 30 years working for the same company as they did in the past. That being said, employee retention among young workers has always been a challenge.

According to The Hill, “In 2020 and 2022, the median worker between the ages 25 and 34 had been in their current job for 2.8 years, while in 1983, that median was recorded at three years.”

That means that companies of all sizes — small businesses included — are constantly hiring, training, and losing employees. This especially applies to millennials and Gen Z talent. In fact, workers are moving around so much that it’s not rare for someone to leave a company only to return later, like a boomerang.

This scenario happens so much that there’s actually a term for it: the boomerang employee.

And this phenomenon is on the rise, with people considering their former jobs as an option:

  • At LinkedIn, boomerang employees accounted for 4.5% of hires in 2021, compared to 3.9% in 2019
  • 20% of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic have already gone back to the job they left
  • Of the people who left their jobs, 41% would consider returning, if it were an option made available to them
  • Overall, 15% of employees have boomeranged back to a former employer

As mentioned above, the definition is pretty cut and dry. A boomerang employee does much the same thing that a boomerang itself does — leaves and then comes back as a rehired employee.

Why are boomerang employees important for human resources professionals?

It’s essential for hiring managers to understand why boomerang workers leave in the first place. Once you have a grasp on these reasons, you can begin to solve any internal issues that caused them to leave.

Managers might assume people leave for more money, but that assumption is not necessarily correct. Of course, many workers did increase their compensation. However, less than half of employees who changed jobs during the pandemic received a pay raise, and 20% actually took a pay cut.

Why are boomerang employees important for human resources professionals?

It’s essential for hiring managers to understand why boomerang workers leave in the first place. Once you have a grasp on these reasons, you can begin to solve any internal issues that caused them to leave.

Managers might assume people leave for more money, but that assumption is not necessarily correct. Of course, many workers did increase their compensation. However, less than half of employees who changed jobs during the pandemic received a pay raise, and 20% actually took a pay cut.

Why boomerang employees leave their companies in the first place

The general characteristic of boomerang workers is that they leave on their own accord rather than through termination or their employer pushing them out. Whether it’s for personal reasons, professional reasons, or a 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. Perhaps they choose to quit because a partner’s job is taking them somewhere new. Maybe they want to leave the formal workforce altogether and opt for something like a stay-at-home parent or a full-time freelancer.

Other times, the reasons are unfortunately related to the company they left. These are the areas you should be trying to understand and address. The top reasons are the following:

Why boomerang employees come back

What makes someone a boomerang employee is their eventual return to the company they once left. Again, these individuals return for varying reasons. The reasons employees boomerang back are just as varied and individualized as the reasons they left in the first place.

Sometimes it’s as simple as an employee taking a new job and realizing that it’s not nearly what they were promised and decided to return. Of those who quit their jobs during The Great Resignation (a pandemic-era phenomenon), 43% now admit they were actually better off at their old job! Some might feel more equipped to do their old job now that they have new skills, experiences, and perspectives to bring to the table.

The top reasons employees return to their previous company include:

  • Missing their peers/coworkers (38%)
  • They feel more familiarity and comfort in the role (31%)
  • Missing the customers (22%)
  • Better compensation/pay (19%)
  • Better work-life balance (16%)

Should you rehire an employee who left?

Overall, boomerang employees can be excellent hires. There are many obvious pros of rehiring someone. However, there are also things to consider before doing so.

Reasons to hire a previous employee

  • First, they’re already familiar with your company and culture. Chances are the employee was a good match for their job previously, so you can take that question out of the equation.
  • Second, there are likely far fewer costs associated with bringing someone back onto the team than recruiting, hiring, and training new people. This is because they’re already familiar with the role and internal company processes.
  • Finally, their time away will likely bring new skills, experiences, and connections to the company. So if your employee left on good terms, it might be the best choice for hiring managers.

Reasons to think twice before hiring a boomerang employee

That being said, there are some things to consider before hiring a boomerang worker.

  • First, they did leave for a reason. It’s critical to find out why that was. If what made them want to leave in the first place hasn’t changed, it might make them want to leave again. Therefore, it’s worth investigating why they think this time around will be better for them.
  • Second, if they’re boomeranging back into a more senior position than before, you’ll want to vet them just as you would any other hire for that position. This means vetting and checking references.

Summary of the definition of a boomerang employee

Overall, the boomerang employee phenomenon has been on the rise, especially since the pandemic began. People left their jobs for various reasons. Now that life has returned to a more normal state, people are reevaluating why they left in the first place and what’s important to them.

As a manager, you’re not alone if you’re tempted to rehire a former employee. According to BambooHR, “76% of HR professionals say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past.”

Some people left for higher pay, while others left for personal reasons. Hiring a former employee has plenty of perks but also significant considerations.

The boomerang trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Now is the time to consider these workers, especially if you’re looking to cut training costs and hire a familiar face.

Similar glossary definitions you must know

  • Leave of absence: A leave of absence refers to the time an employee takes away from the workplace. Some leaves of absence are governed by federal and state laws and may be paid or unpaid leaves.
  • Applicant tracking system: An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that lets recruiters and employers track candidates during the recruitment and hiring stages. Streamlines the recruitment and hiring processes from start to end.
  • Career plateau: A career plateau defines a period when you or your employee’s career path feels blocked. In other words, there is little chance for career progression or climbing the career ladder. Career plateauing occurs when there are no professional development programs or promotions.
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