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3 Trends Driving the Shifting Mindset Around Boomerang Employees

by Alix Grimm
on November 14, 2016

One of the large trends we’ve seen arise in the workplace in 2016 has been the rise of “boomerang employees.” Boomerang employees are employees who have left a company, worked at another organization for a period of time, and returned to their previous employer.

This used to be frowned upon when employees hopped around from job to job every couple years and employers would not be keen on re-hiring an employee who had previously left. Research from WorkplaceTrends.com, though, shows a major shift in this mindset:

“Nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees – even if the employee left in good standing – but 76 percent say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past.”

Why is the mindset from the HR department shifting? Below we’ve outline three key trends driving the shifting mindset.

Increased Career Mobility in Younger Generations

According to a 2016 LinkedIn research study, “Over the last 20 years, the number of companies people worked for in the five years after they graduated has nearly doubled.” Graduates between 2006 and 2010 averaged nearly 2.85 jobs in their first 5 years after graduation.

I fit squarely into that statistic as I’ve worked at four companies since graduating in 2007. Younger generations have placed a major emphasis on focusing their early career on learning and exploring, leading to a decrease in average tenure and growth in the number of early jobs. As the average tenure at an organization decreases, it will become more and more common for employees to boomerang back to former employers and re-apply for new positions and opportunities. As this becomes the new norm, HR departments will be forced to have a shifting mindset on boomerang employees and also think about employee engagement through alumni networks as that may be a significant source of future talent in your organization.

Boomerang Employees Come With Culture Awareness, Familiarity, and an Easier Onboarding

According to the same Workplace Trends survey, 33 percent of HR professionals also agreed that familiarity with the organization’s culture is the biggest benefit to hiring back former employees. One-third of respondents also cited the fact that boomerangs do not require as much training as a brand new employee as the biggest benefit.

This familiarity with the company culture can be exceptionally valuable to a company. It brings a pre-established loyalty and trust between the employee and employer. They also are able to jump in and be performing at their peak quicker than brand new employees.

Diverse Experiences

Boomerang employees also come back to an organization with a brand new set of experiences, knowledge, and connections (also known as potential customers or employees). This fresh way of thinking can bring new, innovative ideas back into a business. It is a way for companies to bring a diverse set of views and thinking into the organization and combat groupthink. This diverse set of experiences is making employers think twice about the value of a boomeranger, leading to this shifting mindset.

After graduating college, I went to work at Unilever. Unilever was a large proponent of boomerang employees, almost encouraging employees to leave the company, gain a diverse set of experiences and perspectives, and bring those perspectives back into Unilever.

One thing is certain, though, with the emergence of boomerang employees — knowing and engaging your employees has never been more important. Brendan Browne, Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition at LinkedIn noted concerning boomerang employees, “Loyalty doesn’t go away when employees walk out the door; rather, it can stay with them throughout their careers and flourish over time as they navigate the workforce.”

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