Sometimes the talent you’re looking for is nearer and more familiar than you think. In the past, welcoming back a former employee might have been a no-go. However, it’s now increasingly acceptable as businesses consider creative ways to fill vacancies amidst the Great Resignation. According to LinkedIn, 4.5% of all new hires among companies on its platform were boomerang workers in 2021, compared to 3.9% in 2019, while research finds that nearly one in five people who quit their role during the pandemic has already “boomeranged” back. And of those who have not yet returned to the company they left, 41% would consider it if it were an option. Arguably, in today’s tight labor market, businesses ought to ensure that returning is not only an option for ex-staff but that it is actively encouraged.
People who have worked for you before know your company and its quirks. Having pursued other opportunities, they bring new knowledge, market intelligence, and a fresh perspective. They may even have a new appreciation for your business if the grass on the other side wasn’t as green after all. Another major plus, these individuals know your company culture, which can be difficult for newcomers to assess at interview.
Hiring past employees saves on recruitment costs, too. Rehires will have a gentler learning curve and contribute to your business success sooner.
Rehiring former employees is also an effective PR exercise. It signals to clients and staff that your business is a desirable place to work. What better endorsement than an employee who has experienced the competition and chosen to return? It also indicates to past employees that your door is open.
Given that ex-employees bring so many positives, how can you make it easy and attractive for them to come back?
Make IT OK To Leave
Much of it comes down to how you frame departures and respond when someone resigns. When a valued employee hands in their notice, it can be hard not to see it as a betrayal or a personal slight. However, a more helpful approach is to treat staff leaving as a natural part of career progression – not a rejection of your business but a case of people spreading their wings to acquire new skills. Viewed in this way, it becomes less of a final ‘adieu’ and more of an ‘au revoir’ and maybe see you again.
Part On Good Terms
How you handle an employee’s departure can help build (or burn) bridges. According to Gallup, people who have a positive exit experience are 2.9 times more likely to recommend that organization. And it’s not unreasonable to infer that they’re also more likely to consider coming back to work there.
Exit interviews are important. They’re an opportunity to understand the departing employee’s experience and their rationale for leaving – feedback that can help you make improvements that might encourage others to stay. By creating an open forum where people can share their views, you’re helping the relationship end on a positive and constructive note.
The exit interview is also the time to sow the seeds for a possible return in the future. If you value an employee and believe they are a good fit for your organization, make it clear that the door is open should they ever wish to come back.
Build An Alumni Network
Once you have parted amicably, the priority is to keep in touch. Building an alumni network is an effective way to maintain your relationship with former staff. It could be as simple as creating a group on LinkedIn or, for a more engaging user experience, using a technology platform such as Enterprise Alumni. The key is to have a plan and a team that takes responsibility for growing your alumni community, from promoting it to nurturing it with relevant content. Building a successful network won’t happen overnight, but the rewards make it worth the effort. Former employees aren’t only a rich source of future talent but also of referrals for new hires and customers.
Create A Positive Re-entry Experience
If (and hopefully, when) your hard work pays off and an ex-employee decides to return, you need to manage their re-entry with care. The business may have changed, so set clear expectations by being open about how things might be different the second time around.
Despite their familiarity with your organization, it’s essential to provide some form of onboarding to help them reacquaint themselves with the company. Also, consider how other employees might feel about them coming back. Perhaps their departure allowed another team member to take on new responsibilities, creating apprehension about their return. Have an open discussion to address concerns among your existing workforce and pave the way for what will hopefully be a successful re-entry and long-term future with your business.
Boomerangs may not be the silver bullet to your hiring woes, but they provide something unique – insider knowledge of your business combined with new market insights and experiences. So, be understanding when someone leaves. Shake their hand and wish them well in the knowledge that their departure might simply be a detour, not the end of their journey with your business.