As a result of The Great Resignation, about 10 million roles became available across the United States. Not so long ago, re-hiring a former employee was considered ill-advised. With so many open roles these days due to employees leaving jobs and leaving industries, we’re seeing a growing trend that indicates a mindset shift around hiring back former employees. Boomerang employees, as they’re commonly referred to, are on the rise in organizations with a broader perspective on what company alumni can offer.
There are several factors influencing this ‘boomerang effect.’ For instance, some employees may made a rapid decision to leave their previous role due to the effects of the pandemic. Adjusting to a remote working model was a period of change management that affected a number of organizations.
However, as companies took the time to evolve, previous employees may have felt drawn back in to their previous companies, especially if they felt that they were lacking a sense of belonging or community in their new roles
In other cases, some employees may have quit without a plan for their next role, and then been asked to return. The list of reasons is extensive.
Through the external talent research Blu Ivy conducts for many of our clients across North America, we often encounter talent segments who share personal stories of leaving an organization for an expanded role elsewhere yet return months later because they missed certain aspects about their old organization. These include the way colleagues interact, the unique elements of the company culture, and workplace flexibility.
The costs of lost talent are a significant expense for organizations each year, so we view this inclination to re-hire former contributors as a great opportunity for organizations to recover costs and pull top talent back into the fold.
What can companies do today to capture the hearts and minds of the high potential, high performing talent that have left the organization and realize potential impact of the boomerang effect?
Ensure that your employee exit process and practices are aligned with your employee value proposition
A vast majority of ex-employees feel that the way an organization exits talent is a critical point at which they show their true culture colours. Is the warm approach you showed new employees shifted to a cold process driven by security and policy when employees leave?
Leaders need to be candid and present during these moments. Tell great talent that you are disappointed that they are leaving but you want to learn how to be a better organization and would love to stay in touch. Better yet, tell them you would love to see them to come back at some point.
As much as we know talent usually leaves managers rather than organizations, instill a process whereby exiting talent meets with leadership from alternate divisions when exiting. Have exit interviews conducted in person, with a true intent to learn what you can improve upon and how to make this a place you would want to return later in your career. Ask questions like: Who inspired you most and what experience was the most beneficial for you during your time with us?
Provide exiting employees with genuine thanks. Highlight your appreciation for them and their contribution to the team, culture or other elements during their tenure. Make it personal rather than an HR form letter. How have they impacted the company and you personally?
Stay in touch with employees that have left your organization
Don’t be afraid to follow up with departed talent three to six months later. Check in on how they are doing, what they like about their new role, and gently ask what they miss about your organization (if anything). Let high potentials know that they are missed and would be welcomed back in future should they be interested. This personal connection months later will make a lasting impression, foster loyalty, and even yield positive referrals.
Many top organizations create alumni communities with talent that have left. These groups can be established on LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack, or other channels. These alumni groups create an opportunity to keep the relationships you have with former employees going, reinforce the positive aspects about your organization, and provide a forum for sharing information and ideas.
Social content that is designed for this audience and job sharing within these communities will not only maintain engagement and elevate the potential for re-hires, but it will cultivate a team of positive alumni brand ambassadors that know the strengths of your workplace culture.
The gig economy and side hustles are on the rise, so don’t be afraid to ask top talent that have left for their continued involvement in the organization. Opportunities to consider are:
- Brand ambassadorship
- Content creation
- Survey participation
Think outside the box when looking at workplace planning for the future, understand the great talent that you have lost, keep the relationship going, and consider them for future roles or involvement within your company.
What does this mean for your employer brand?
Having great talent return to your organization says a lot about your organization as a place to work. Employees that leave can be terrific brand ambassadors for your company. Treat them well when they leave, listen to them on how you can be better, and maintain those relationships.
The boomerang effect not only guarantees that you have a far greater return of top talent to your workplace but increases your chances those high potentials bringing other top talent with them. It all comes down to the experience you provided during the exit process and their time as a company alumnus.
Director, Employer Brand & Culture
Blu Ivy Group
Blu Ivy Group is a global leader in employer branding, organizational culture, and recruitment marketing. We help organizations across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors build extraordinary employee experiences, magnetic employer brands and high-performance cultures.
From C-Suite to Employer Brand and Talent Acquisition leadership, we partner with our clients to transform their organizations and design the most compelling workplaces of the future.
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