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Boomerang Workers: Returning to a Former Employer

Can Going Back Be a Step Forward?


After six months at her new job, Margo realized she never should have left her previous employer.

“The first time I walked into the building, I sensed a negative vibe,” she later said. “People were not passionate about what they were doing, they were just putting in their time.”

So Margo kept her eye out for potential openings with her former boss, and eventually secured a position she loves.

Margo is part of an emerging trend of workers who leave jobs in order to return to their former employers.

According to LinkedIn, 4.5 percent of all staff hired in 2021 were rehires, up from 3.9 percent in 2019. Employers are finding that rehiring these so-called “boomerang employees” has its benefits.

Let’s look at the ways going back can be a step forward, for both employers and the returning staff.

When to Consider Rehiring

Is your company expanding? Are the demand for your services higher than ever? You may want to consider rehiring former staff who left your company on good terms. Here are some potential benefits:

A Known Commodity

Since you already know their work ethic, skills and personality, a rehire is not as risky as a new hire. You can better predict how their work will benefit your business.

Less Training

The rehired employee already knows the ins and outs of your company, so you can spend less time training and bringing them up to speed. They may even be able to forego the training period all together (unless, of course, your corporate policies and procedures have changed in the interim).

Hiring a former employee lets you hit the ground running. Even if they’ve been away more than a few months, providing a quick refresher course may be all that’s needed to restore their proficiency. In many cases, rehired workers bring with them new skills which they acquired from their previous positions.

Bear in mind, however, that former employees may require an adjustment period, even if they don’t need formal training. This is particularly important if your company experienced significant change in during the period this worker was employed elsewhere.

Increased Commitment

Former employees who request their job back are likely to return with increased dedication. Aspects about your company which they previously failed to notice or appreciate take on higher value. With the perspective of experience, they can view your company in a more favorable light, compared with their other employers.

Rehiring Tips

Here are a couple of tips to consider before rehiring a former staff member:

Remember Why They Left

Why did this former employee leave the company? Was it because of performance issues or a poor organizational fit? Then you’ll want to think twice before rehiring. On the other hand, if they were let go because of budget constraints, seasonality, or the COVID pandemic, they should be seriously considered (assuming they left on good terms).

Remember the ways in which this employee affected the corporate culture, too. For example, a former worker who maintained a positive attitude and motivated their coworkers could be a welcome addition to your current team.

Don’t Skip the Interview

While going through the interview process can feel redundant, It’s the best time to check in, revisit expectations, and make sure you’re both on the same page.

Even if you don’t use a formal interview process, take advantage of this meeting time to discuss the position, how it may differ from the old position, and (if applicable) how the company’s circumstances have changed. Make sure your expectations are clear and then listen to the employee’s feedback. You can then decide if this person is the right fit.

Returning to an Old Job

What if you’re a worker who’s discovered your new job isn't the right fit for you? Is returning to your former employer a good idea? Perhaps.

Here are some reasons why reaching out to your old boss may be worth the risk:

  • You’re already familiar with how the business operates, and you know how you feel about the corporate culture and your coworkers. These are huge unknowns when you’re a new hire.

  • If you left your old job to pursue better financial opportunities, you may now have more leverage for negotiating a higher salary or promotion because of the skills and work experience you’ve acquired in the interim.

  • Likewise, the company may have grown during your absence. If it has advanced and evolved into a better work environment for you, returning may be a smart decision.

  • With the advantage of hindsight, you may now realize that your old job was the right place for you. In that case, you likely have nothing to lose by reaching out to your former employer.

Tips for Returning to a Former Job

Are you ready to ask for your old job back but not sure how? Here are a few ideas:

  • Make sure the company does not have a policy against rehiring former staff.

  • Before applying for a job with your old company, reach out to your former boss directly. Let them know you’re interested in returning and will be submitting an application.

  • Help them to recognize your value, by explaining the new skills you’ve acquired since leaving their employ.

  • Demonstrate to your former boss how your time away from the company made you realize how committed you are to their goals and objectives.

  • Help your former employer recognize how much onboarding time and resources will be saved by rehiring you.

So, when is going back actually a step forward?

When employers are able to bring back proven assets quickly.

When workers can secure elevated responsibilities and/or a higher salary.

When workers return with renewed dedication to the company and its mission.


Sources: Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted Lever Wall Street Journal The Muse


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