Boomerang Employees: How Career Pros Can Help Clients
Have you ever worked with clients who left an organization for another opportunity and, shortly thereafter, found themselves wanting to return to their original place of employment? These individuals are called boomerang employees. Boomerang employees are not uncommon these days; workers frequently change roles and companies for many different reasons. The changing nature of the work landscape, stressful demands on employees, high-volume workloads, and stiff competition, coupled with the aftermath of the Great Shift or the Great Resignation, are just some of the factors that are causing many employees to consider returning to their old company (if they have the chance). Contemplating a return to a previous employer can cause confusion, doubt, and some anxiety for our clients. Read on to learn how we can offer support to individuals who are considering joining the growing cohort of boomerang employees.
The Rise of Boomerang Employees
A recent Ceridian report showed that 850,000 Canadian employees who left their company, and later returned, made up about 25% of external hires. Boomerang hiring seems to be increasing and can represent an up to $12 million annual cost-saving recruitment tactic for some Fortune 500 companies. These employers know what they’re getting; there’s no requirement for costly orientation or training.
It’s very common for workers to think that the “grass is greener on the other side.” Therefore, employees may choose to leave a company for a more innovative one because the environment and culture seem compelling and irresistible. Ironically, many quickly learn that the company they left offered a more empowering culture or more opportunities for advancement than the one they have transitioned to.
These employees often realize they made a rash decision; they should have done more research and reflected more thoroughly while still working for their now former employer. Soon after starting their new role, the initial excitement can start to dwindle and they may experience a job-related “honeymoon hangover.” Sometimes, it may be more comfortable to return to an environment they know than to try to fit in and forge a reputation at a new company.
And boomerang employment may actually make a lot of sense for some of our clients. This career step may be valid when, for example, the employee realizes that the career development they were offered at their former organization is of more value than what is provided elsewhere. It can also make sense if the employee is experiencing high stress in other areas of life and needs the stability and psychological safety of a work environment they’re familiar with.
The Pros of Hiring Boomerang Employees
There are some advantages for employers when they hire boomerang employees:
- Familiarity with the company – For employers, hiring a boomerang employee can save training and onboarding costs. They know what they’re getting, too, when they extend a job offer. There are also advantages for the returning employee. There is a lot of comfort in being in familiar surroundings. They aren’t required to make a lot of the micro- and macro decisions that individuals experience with when faced with new challenges, a steep learning curve, and a “bigger unknown.”
- Innovation – Boomerang employees may deliver new-found knowledge, experiences, and techniques that can propel an organization to the next level.
- Greater prospects – Boomerang employees can accumulate a wealth of new network contacts and potential sales opportunities. These can be leveraged to elevate an existing client base or compel former customers to return.
- Higher employee satisfaction – Boomerang employees tend to be more satisfied and committed and are usually higher performers compared to new hires. Forty-three percent of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic now admit they were actually happier in their former role.
- Team morale and engagement – Recruiting former employees can boost team morale and engagement. Workers will witness that grudges are not held when someone leaves, which inspires loyalty, hope, camaraderie, and collaboration.
- Better performance – Former employees may have higher levels of motivation, which means they may work harder and stay with the company longer.
The Cons of Hiring Boomerang Employees
As always, there are two sides to a story. Here are some potential cons of re-hiring former employees:
- Employee complacency – Boomerang employees might quickly get a bit too comfortable, which could stagnate creativity and negatively impact job performance.
- Return of past issues – If the boomerang employee left due to some unresolved issues or a co-worker relationship, these issues could resurface upon their return.
- Cultural impact – The boomerang employee’s return could lead to other employees disapproving the decision to re-hire, which could, in turn, cause drama, hinder morale, and cause hostility. The boomerang employee may have difficulty adjusting to cultural changes that have occurred in their absence and might be resistant to implement new work methods or procedures.
- Fit – Boomerang employees may not always be the best fit, but hiring managers may overlook that and opt for their comfort zone. This practice can result in many better-qualified candidates being passed over.
- Flight risk – Boomerang employees may exit quickly if issues they objected to in the past are still present. Their hasty departure could lower team morale and increase turnover rates, especially if existing employees become curious about “what else is out there” and follow suit.
Our Role as Career Development Practitioners
As career professionals, we have a duty to guide our clients to fully understand their rationale for wanting to return to their former company. Their job search strategy, goals, and career action plan should be thoughtfully evaluated. A lot of changes are happening in the labour market and economy, and carefully and thoroughly evaluating career-related decisions is perhaps the best tactic for success.
Key questions to ask your clients if they are considering returning to a former workplace:
- What were the reasons you left? (allow the client to express their own perspective)
- Do you believe that those issues have now been resolved? (if so, then returning may be in their best interest. Otherwise, what is the plan to move forward?)
It’s hard to determine whether boomerang employment is effective. Statistics show that 80% of employees who hand in their resignation are counteroffered and choose to stay. But ultimately, these individuals end up leaving within months of the counteroffer.
Applying a Client-Centred Approach
As career development practitioners (CDPs), we need to provide a client-centred approach to help our clients achieve their working, living, and learning goals. Being coaches and mentors to our clients, we “hold up the mirror of truth” (The Johari Window principle) to help our clients uncover their deep-seated motivations.
Our goal is to use empathy, emotional intelligence, and unconditional kindness when helping our clients figure out their next career steps. We do this by:
- Suspending judgment, using curiosity, and asking powerful open-ended questions to help our clients uncover the truths behind their exit from an organization.
- Helping our clients clarify their decision to return and their commitment to this intention. Further, it helps to identify any potential challenges and how they might be mitigated.
- Supporting clients to create their short- and long-term career and life plans so they can visualize how a decision to “boomerang” fits into their overall plan.
- Encouraging our clients to create a clear action plan with SMART (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound) goals.
As career development practitioners and work-life strategists, it is our mission to offer support and always instil hopefulness and optimism in our clients. Remember that jobseekers’ paths are generally not linear; it’s okay for us to purposefully go “back-and-forth” while clarifying our intentions and determining a path that serves us best.
The Bottom Line
There is a well-known saying; “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” This refers to the fact that a river is never in the same state twice — the water, the landscape, the weather — even the person stepping into the river — are ever-changing. The perception of familiarity and constancy may be misleading. It may, in fact, be unattainable. Organizations and teams evolve. A boomerang employee may discover that the environment they were so comfortable in has moved on and changed in their absence. Of course, this evolution could be for the better or the worse, but it’s an important conversation that’s worth having with clients who are considering a boomerang career move.
Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone.
Ksenia Lazoukova is a dynamic adult educator and Learning Facilitator with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. She designs, develops, and facilitates employment readiness curricula and workshops for skilled newcomers to Nova Scotia to help them obtain professional jobs in their industries. Ksenia is a Certified Career Development Practitioner (CCDP) through the Career Development Association of Nova Scotia. She also holds the Career Development Practitioner (CDP) designation from Career Professionals of Canada (CPC), having successfully earned all five of CPC’s certifications: Certified Résumé Strategist, Certified Career Strategist, Certified Employment Strategist, Certified Interview Strategist, and Certified Work-Life Strategist. Ksenia is a proud CPC member and active volunteer for the association.
Conny Lee is a Certified Holistic Narrative Career Practitioner, Online Business Manager for coaches, Certified Career (CCS), Employment (CES), and Résumé Strategist (CRS), Trauma of Money Facilitator, and Sacred Money Archetypes® Coach. She focuses on supporting people to create the career, business, and life they truly desire. To learn more, visit Conny’s website at connylee.com. When she isn’t working, Conny enjoys reading, listening, learning anything related to personal development, spending time with her family, and working out.