Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Benefits of Taking Back Boomerang Employees
Ten or twenty years ago, most companies would not want to re-hire an employee who had voluntarily left their organization. The company would have likely considered the employee disloyal. Career counselors would have advised the employee not to go back, for fear there would be a target on his or her back, and that he or she would be the first employee let go if there were ever cutbacks.
Now, boomerang employees are widely considered to have one of the highest returns on recruiting investment an employer can ask for.
The cost to re-hire a boomerang employee has been reported to be 1/3 to 2/3 the cost of hiring a “new” employee. Little time or effort must be invested in getting to know the candidate, and boomerangs can be valuable to an organization because they already understand the company culture, they have a history with the business, and they bring a fresh new perspective gained from outside.
During their absence, there is a good chance boomerangs have learned new skills and strategies in a different setting. They are also likely to have made new connections and expanded their network.
Many large companies and consulting firms (HP, McKinsey, Deloitte, and Booz Allen, to name a few) now have alumni groups and recruiting teams dedicated to hiring “comeback kids”, but it’s also important for startups and expansion stage companies to keep in touch with top employees who left for a chance to try something new or what they thought were greener pastures.
Although I’ve already outlined a few of the reasons for hiring boomerangs, I came across a great article on ERE which outlines more reasons why it makes sense for companies to develop a formal effort to re-recruit previous top performers. Some of them include:
- Fast hire. I’ve mentioned the hiring speed and lower cost already, and although these should not be the main reasons to re-hire someone, they offer an opportunity to hire a top person quickly.
- Known skills. Since you have experience working with this employee, you already know their strengths, their weaknesses, and what skills and competencies you are obtaining with their hiring.
- Up to speed quickly. A boomerang employee already knows the company and its culture, and is likely to get up to speed faster than a new hire who would have to learn a new set of politics, culture, and processes.
- Low failure rate. They have a lower chance of failing because they have already adapted to the culture, and you already know their performance capabilities and ability to produce results.
- Browngrassers. After seeing the “color of the grass” on the other side, many of these employees will actually stay with your company longer the second time around because they have a greater appreciation for the company after having experienced somewhere else. The added benefit is that it can actually help with employee retention efforts because these employees can tell stories to others about life on the outside.
- Competitive intelligence. Boomerangs can provide competitive intelligence, new ideas, and a fresh perspective from their most recent company.
- A chain reaction. They occasionally bring other past employees back with them when they return, especially when the message spreads that your company is welcoming to those who have left.
- PR value. A high return rate might improve your company’s image and secure good PR in the industry and community.
- Refer other strong employees to your company.
- Refer potential customers.
- Build strategic alliances with their new company.
- Generally maintain a stronger relationship and speak more positively about their experience with your company.
Full disclosure: I am a boomerang employee at OpenView. I left for four months to join a local startup and the experience, although short, was invaluable. While I would not want anyone at OpenView to follow in my footsteps and leave the firm for any period of time, I learned a lot and made some great contacts during my time away. I came back to OpenView in April with a fresh perspective, and am thrilled to be back. I should also note that I’m not the first boomerang at OpenView. Ori Yankelev, whom I worked with from 2009-2010, also rejoined the firm during my absence.
Brian Zimmerman wrote a blog about how to react when one of your employees decides to leave for a new opportunity. If you handle the situation professionally and maintain your relationship with the employee, you may just find them back in your office sooner than you think!