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Why you should hire back former employees

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You might think bringing in diverse and new recruits to your company will provide the most innovative ideas and new perspectives to boost your business – but could your answer lie with old staff?

According to new studies, welcoming back ex-employees – or “boomerang employees” – is becoming a more common recruiting practice as organisations recognise and embrace the value of their knowledge and direct experience with the business.

Two studies co-written by a University of Illinois expert in organisational behavior and human resources management found these boomerang employees offset high turnover costs and hedge against the uncertain process of socialising replacement employees.

According to T. Brad Harris, a professor of labour and employment relations at Illinois, these former staff members also already understand the key components of the organisation’s work structure and culture, which makes them less risky hires.

“Returning employees might also be more committed to the focal organisation upon their return because, in essence, they’ve learned firsthand that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” Harris said.

In a paper published in the summer issue of Personnel Psychology, Harris and his co-authors – Stacie Furst-Holloway of the University of Cincinnati, Benson Rosen of the University of North Carolina, and Abbie J. Shipp of Texas Christian University – found that the experiences encountered by boomerang employees were distinct in a number of ways.

“After surveying and interviewing hundreds of employees, we were able to see that boomerang employees were more likely to originally leave an organisation not because of dissatisfaction with the job, but because of some personal shock, such as a pregnancy, spousal relocation or an unexpected job offer,” Harris said.

Harris and his co-authors also found that boomerang employees, compared to non-boomerang employees, typically had shorter original tenures with the focal organisations.

Using a sample of boomerang employees in the National Basketball Association, Harris and another set of co-authors also focused on assessing re-employment performance in a recent working paper.

The paper found that how well such boomerang employees performed was significantly predicted by the harmony of the original tenure, and employees’ success during the time spent away from the focal organisation and conditions of the return.

“Our latest research suggests that organisations should realise that not all boomerangs are created equal,” Harris said.

Image: Shutterstock

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