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Talent Management Applicant Tracking System Recruiting & Hiring

Boomerang Hires: Your Company's Best Untapped Talent Pool

April 16, 2024
6 min read
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Let's have a real heart-to-heart about the ever-changing landscape of talent acquisition, HR pro to HR pro. You know as well as I do that the days of long-term employees who stick around for decades are long gone. Post-Great Resignation, employees leave their companies more often — in fact, 90% of Gen Z and 92% of Millennials say they plan to change jobs this year. That leaves us scrambling to fill roles and keep productivity high.

Despite your best efforts, hiring managers seem to think there’s a well-spring of phenomenal talent, but you just haven’t found it. Sound familiar?

What if those hiring managers are right, and there's a treasure trove of talent right under our noses?

Enter boomerang employees — employees who return to their previous employers after spreading their wings elsewhere. As someone who has worked in human resources for, well, longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve experienced firsthand the benefits of boomerang hiring. I’ve even been a boomerang employee myself!

Let's dive into why hiring boomerang employees could be the secret sauce your company (and recruiters) have been missing.

🔁 Once an employee, always a potential asset. Explore the benefits of rehiring boomerang employees and how it contributes to a dynamic and loyal workforce:

Boomerang Employees: Going on “Maturity Leave” 🚀

Years ago, I heard a friend make a comment about their “maturity leave” (a phrase inspired by “maternity leave”), and that phrase really resonated with me. Although it’s rare to spend decades at a company today, many great employees have the potential to “boomerang.” Boomerang employees are employees who leave to take another role, “matured” by gaining new and valuable experience, and then return to your organization.

I mentioned being a boomerang hire myself. As I reflect upon my own boomerang experience, the most valuable part of leaving an organization and then returning, for me, was the validation.

As a person who suffers from imposter syndrome (there, I said it, and I know I’m not alone!), gaining the validation that my knowledge and skills were transferable and valued by another organization was a huge step in the right direction in my battle with my imposter syndrome. It also allowed me to return to the organization that was the right fit for me with fresh ideas and a renewed sense of confidence.

Why Rehiring Rocks 🤘

The best boomerang employee I ever (re)hired was a woman who was a true A-player. She had advanced her career with the company several times over her tenure, departed the organization on great terms, and was leaving the workforce for a period of time to raise a family. We stayed in touch because I knew her kiddos would eventually head off to school, and she may be ready to return to the workforce.

An interesting situation arose where we needed an employee to do part-time, temporary, skilled work — guess who I called? The circumstances worked out fantastic! She wasn’t sure if she was ready to return to the workforce in a full-time or permanent capacity, but she was ready to test the waters. This arrangement allowed her to dip her toe back into the workforce and gauge how working fit into her life and family.

She was able to dive into the work with almost no ramp or training because she was familiar with the technology and tools she was using and had existing relationships with many people on the team. It worked out beautifully, and we ended up extending her temporary contract a couple of times.

Maturity leave can be a crash course in professional (and sometimes personal) development. Ideally, boomerang employees come back with a new perspective, appreciation for company culture, and a whole new toolkit of skills they picked up along the way.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of rehiring former employees.

🚀 Blast from the past or wave of the future? Find out why boomerang hiring is an excellent strategy for recruiting top talent:

Loyalty Redux 🫡

Ever heard the saying, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone?” Well, it rings true for boomerang employees. Time spent away can provide insight into company policies or decisions.

Witnessing how other organizations operate can serve as a reality check and foster a newfound appreciation or understanding of your company culture. Having seen what else is out there, they've decided that your organization is where they truly belong.

Want More Expert Advice?
Get more insights from Angie — check out her interview for
valuable tips for measuring the quality of your talent acquisition strategy:
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Instant Productivity Boost 📈

In most cases, boomerang hires hit the ground running. There’s no lengthy onboarding process or weeks of training — just immediate productivity. Plus, they might have picked up some skills during their time away that will make them even more effective in their roles.

Even if boomerang hires require onboarding, it can be a shorter, simplified process that greatly reduces downtime for their team.

Growth Gains 🌱

During their time away, boomerang employees encounter new challenges and opportunities, leading to different ways of thinking and fresh approaches to problem-solving. They’ve tackled new complex projects, navigated unfamiliar environments, and interacted with a broader range of personalities.

Boomerang hires also may have encountered alternative leadership styles or gained knowledge of industry trends. Their refreshed perspectives inject new energy and creativity into the team, driving innovation and growth.

This time away also gives boomerang employees a chance for introspection and reflection. They may reassess their professional goals, strengths, and areas for development, gaining clarity on their career paths. These experiences foster increased self-awareness, resilience, and adaptability.

As a result, they’re often more focused and determined, ready to make significant contributions to your company.

Creating a Boomerang-Friendly Environment 🤝

Here’s how you make your company so irresistible that former employees can't resist coming back:

  • 👋 Offboarding with Care: Treat departing top employees like the gems they are. Conduct exit interviews, keep the lines of communication open, and send them off with well-wishes. After all, you never know when they might come back.
  • 🛜 Keeping Connections Alive: Keep your former employees in the loop with alumni newsletters, LinkedIn groups, or even occasional catch-up coffee chats. The stronger the connection, the more likely they'll boomerang back to you.
  • 🪃 Boomerang-Friendly Policies: Be sure your company has policies that make it appealing for boomerangs to return. This might include reinstated tenure so they maintain previous PTO balances or 401k match levels, waiving waiting periods on benefits, and celebrating boomerangs org-wide as a positive.

Expert Advice: Embracing the Boomerang Revolution With ClearCompany 💡

You may be wondering how to track or manage departed employees that you’d like to become a boomerang. With ClearCompany’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS), rehiring can easily become part of your talent acquisition strategy.

In the ClearCompany ATS, you can easily tag a departing employee and add them to specific talent communities based on their skills, geographic locations, or other criteria.

Here’s a pro tip: you want to cultivate relationships with your departed A-players, not just reach out when there’s an opening. I’d recommend sending these folks custom messages on what’s happening in your organization that may be of interest to them. That way, when you do reach out for an opportunity, you’ve already established a rapport.

ClearCompany’s recruiting email drip campaigns tool can help you efficiently reach out to past top employees. If you aren't using this feature already, talk to your ClearCompany Customer Success Manager about it, or sign up for a demo of our ATS to see it in action.

By tapping into the often-overlooked talent pool of your own former employees, you can bypass the headaches of traditional hiring and bring back top performers who already know the ropes.

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