Constantly shifting attitudes to the workplace keep on presenting challenges for employers, such as the boomerang employees concept.

The COVID pandemic set the Great Resignation in motion, and while its effects are still being felt, there are yet more dominos being knocked over.

Now, so-called boomerang employees are a new dilemma for employers to consider: how do you approach the sometimes-awkward idea of taking back a former employee? Should it come with extra conditions? And when, if ever, should you definitely not take an employee back?


What is a boomerang employee?

Boomerang employee is a term that’s been ascribed to those who leave a company only to return at a later date. It usually refers to people who chose to leave their role rather than those who have been fired and rehired, since the latter scenario doesn’t involve employee choice. The term, of course, was coined because of the design of a boomerang enabling it to return once thrown.

Boomerang employees might occur for a number of reasons, and the return could be instigated either by themselves or their former employer.

It’s not uncommon for a worker to outgrow their workplace. Indeed, it’s thought workers across the U.S. change jobs around every four years on average.

It might be that an employer can’t offer an employee career progression or a pay rise, and to find either of those things, said employee opts to look elsewhere instead. It may be more a case of “won’t” than “can’t”, and that a workplace simply isn’t willing to offer more.

Or, perhaps it’s neither of these things, and a worker has simply been in the same place for so long that they need something new.

In any case, for many people, the time simply comes to seek better prospects elsewhere. This doesn’t always work out as planned, and it might be that a leaver finds themselves needing to consider their previous employer months or years down the line to fulfil a new, more senior role.

Same place, but a different job.

It might be that a business expands its operations or has an organizational shakeup, and it needs a person with the appropriate skills and experience to help.

Rather than seek a fresh outside hire, the hiring managers might favor the idea of bringing back a familiar face, especially if they parted on good terms and didn’t burn bridges on their way out.

Boomerang employees can often find that they’re able to return to a previous employer in a stronger position thanks to the time they spent with a different employer in the interim, gaining experience and broadening their horizons in ways that wouldn’t have been possible had they stayed.


Why are boomerang employees becoming more common?

The rise in boomerang employees can be traced back to the rise in people quitting their jobs, for starters.

The COVID pandemic triggered an event commonly called the Great Resignation, as well as the Great Reshuffle or the Big Quit.

The numbers of people quitting their jobs voluntarily, which reached 20-year highs, were driven by a number of factors that amounted to unhappiness in the workplace. Many Americans cited low pay, no progression opportunities, and feeling disrespected at work among their top reasons for quitting.

These factors and others—such as no flexibility with hours and remote or hybrid working—were at odds with rising costs of living and uncertainty stemming from workplaces wanting staff to return to the office full-time in the wake of an ongoing pandemic. Said pandemic, and the fear and uncertainty it created for many, caused newfound perspectives on the time spent in roles.

However, not all of these resignations can pan out right. As such, the rise in boomerang employees can be ascribed to various reasons like regret over leaving a role, or finding that the workplace culture in the new job isn’t what was initially hoped for.


How can boomerang employees improve company culture?

As mentioned earlier, boomerang employees can bring in a new stock of experience and perspective that they wouldn’t have acquired if they’d never left in the first place.

This can make the act of rehiring former employees a great way to fulfil roles while bringing in familiar individuals who already understand the business’s processes and organizational structure. These returning employees can bring in new ideas—either their own, or ones they’ve brought from the employer(s) they left for—that can be added to their rehiring employer’s culture.

The value of rehiring boomerang employees is becoming recognized to the point that huge names like Microsoft are even dedicating alumni networks to taking back past employees, something that is easier than ever for other organizations to replicate for themselves.

Besides the material gains of bringing new ideas and fulfilled roles into the business, there’s also the boost to employee and morale and workplace culture to consider. Organizations that rehire past employees—especially if they’re being rehired into better roles and higher salaries—are showing that they’re open to rekindling working relationships.

This proves the worth of behaving professionally when working for the business, leaving with decorum when the time comes, and not severing ties with management. This can also show current employees that it’s worth weathering more stressful and busy periods of business, since it proves the employer notices hard work and will take it into consideration should that employee ever want to return in future.


Should you rehire former employees?

Whether or not you want to consider rehiring former employees depends on a number of factors. Really, though, these boil down to a simple question: do you want that employee back on your payroll?

There are many factors to consider when the option to rehire a former employee rears its head:


How did that former employee conduct themselves? If they left in a messy way, or have bad-mouthed the organization since leaving, or if remaining employees have expressed relief that they’re gone, then you may want to reconsider taking them back.

However, if the choice to leave the business first time round was done respectfully and with decorum, then time away from the business to grow and learn can only be a good thing for that same person coming back.

If your organization prides itself on being transparent, you may want to consider running the idea by current employees who worked alongside the former employee and see if they have any reasonable objections to that person returning.

Scope of progression

Perhaps you have a role that needs filling and you as a business want to approach a former employee and ask them to interview.

If the role is more senior and well paid than the role they originally left, this seems like a straightforward choice. However, you must consider where that former employee has gone on to since leaving, and whether your offer would be a clear upgrade for them.

If you lure a former employee back only to present them with the same reasons they left in the first place, like poor progression or a stressful workplace, then you might be putting in the work to bring them back only for them to leave yet again in the not-too-distant future.

Reasons for leaving

Consider why the former employee left the business in the first place.

Their main grievances might be issues that end up upsetting them all over again, like a boss they didn’t get along with or a culture that didn’t work for them. If the workplace hasn’t changed so drastically that many things have remained the same, boomerang employees might end up feeling regret at their return.

If they’ve already left once, they’ll likely have no qualms doing it again. You owe it to that person not to bring them into something that will ultimately be a waste of everyone’s time.

Cost of training

As a positive point, boomerang employees are typically cheaper to train and reintroduce to a business. Their familiarity with processes, software, and the organization’s structure lets them hit the ground running when compared to a fresh new hire, even if it’s been a couple of years.

Needing reduced training—or no training at all—can cut costs and save time that would need to be sacrificed by other employees, making the introduction to the new role as smooth as possible and highly attractive for the business as a cost-effective option.


The choice to hire a former employee has no clear-cut, easy answer. It depends on everything you know about that employee set against the needs of your business and your long-term perspectives on the role you need to fill.

Many businesses find success in boomerang hires, and returning employees have found a comfortable return to their former workplaces. There’s no good reason it can’t work for everyone if handled well, and if any mistakes are learned from. If you conduct exit interviews with your employees, you may already know how to make this time work much better.


What are the benefits of hiring former employees?

The aforementioned reduced costs associated with training are a highly attractive reason for rehiring former employees, as well as the notion of bringing back familiar faces. You get the benefits of somebody who is already recognized in your workplace but with extra experience and a widened professional skill set.

If you target a former employee for a role specifically and choose not to advertise that role, you can save time and money spent on advertising, interviewing, and gathering references—particularly if you would use third-party recruiters.

With a former employee, however, chances are good that you’ve already got people working in the business who can speak to their character. Being able to fast-track a (semi) new hire in this way is a huge benefit.

Hiring former employees is also positive for your company’s image. It implies to others that your organization is such a good place to work that employees who leave can end up wanting to come back, and might do so in an even better role.

This speaks to your company culture, progression, and the openness and flexibility of your policies.


What are the risks of hiring former employees?

Research has suggested that there are some potential risks to hiring former employees.

Analysis of eight years of data on boomerang employees suggested that returning hires don’t perform quite as well as new hires after their first year, and that boomerang employees tend to leave for the same reasons the second time as they did the first time.

However, these findings present opportunities for your organization to do better. Boomerang hires can be supported closely to help their reintegration with the business, aided by a tight employee network program.

Additionally, taking the time to identify the specific reasons that saw them leave the first time, and ensure these points don’t cause further friction for the second time round.

How to keep in contact with former employees

Using a corporate alumni platform tailored to your business’s needs is the ideal way to stay in touch with former employees, making the process of approaching—or being approached by—these employees much simpler.

When the right opportunities to work with boomerang employees present themselves, you’ll be ready to seize them and foster a new working relationship that is stronger and more lucrative for both sides.


Aluminati’s alumni management platform products unlock the full potential of an organization’s workforce, from reduced recruitment costs to a higher rate of staff retention and employee satisfaction.

To learn more about our networking solutions and more, contact us today.