Boomerang employees, as their not-yet-entirely-official name would suggest, are people who quit a job with a certain company only to change their mind and try to return soon after. As the number of people quitting their jobs has been on a steady upward trajectory for some time now, it is only logical that companies have also been facing an increased number of boomerang employees who want their jobs back.
The Case Against Boomerang Employees
It is easy to see why companies might feel less than exhilarated to rehire someone who recently left them. For one, many companies and HR professionals believe that rehiring a former employee shows a certain kind of weakness. It feels like giving up the upper hand in what is, when one boils it down, an innately hierarchical relationship between an employer and employee.
Sometimes, and this is much more common in small-to-medium businesses, someone’s quitting might actually hurt people’s feelings and rehiring them is often out of the question. Mistakes get made when quitting, it’s human nature.
Finally, if a company was to engage in regular or even semi-regular rehiring of boomerang employees, it might inspire other people to quit habitually, simply because they know they can always strut back like nothing happened. This is not a culture any company would consciously welcome.
On Second Thought
While the reasons against rehiring boomerang employees are understandable and quite difficult to ignore due to their often emotional nature; there are also a number of reasons you should at least consider taking them back.
For one, you know what you are getting. You know what kind of experience you are getting back and what kind of a skillset you will have at your disposal once again. You also know what kind of weaknesses you can expect. Discovering all the ways in which a brand new employee is not perfect is often a long and disappointing process. With a boomerang employee, you know exactly what their weaknesses are (their proclivity towards quitting included).
Furthermore, a boomerang employee will be able to hit the ground running, shortening the onboarding process. They have already been there and they know the organization inside out. They know all the little idiosyncrasies that make companies unique and can require time to master. They also know the job. They might even still have a few friends left which means they can reintegrate socially much quicker than a fresh employee.
On a more idealistic note, you might actually learn something as an employer. Upon their return, they might be more open to sharing their original reasons for quitting. Often, employers discover that it was something trivial and easily addressed. For example, maybe the employees and managers constantly came off as jerks in internal communication, or maybe they felt the workload was not fairly assigned. Sometimes these revelations will be more dramatic and unearth serious oversights on the behalf of the company.
Keep it Case-to-Case
The smartest way to approach rehiring boomerang employees is to take it on a case-to-case basis. An important factor will be the way in which they quit in the first place. If they did it in a professional and cool-headed manner, then sure, reconsider them. However, if they pull an Al Pacino from Scarface, then it is more probable you will not exactly welcome them back with open arms.
Another factor that will play an important role will be their original reason for quitting. If it was one of those “life decisions” that backfired, it is possible they will have discovered a new enthusiasm for a job that was never that bad. However, if they quit for a concrete reason and nothing has changed since they first left the company, it is unrealistic to think they will suddenly be okay with it.
The most important thing is not to be too intransigent about the boomerang employee issue. Like the vast majority of things in HR and the world in general, rehiring boomerang employees is a gray area and should be approached with an open mind.
Keeping an open mind is rarely a bad idea.
James D. Burbank is the Editor-in-Chief of BizzMarkBlog.
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