How Boomerang Employees Can Supercharge Your Recruiting Efforts

August 16, 2022 | Antique Nguyen

While no organization plans for a valuable employee to exit, it can be incredibly beneficial — for the company and the employee — when they return after some time away. These are called “boomerang” employees and they are a growing source of candidates that can be an essential part of your recruiting strategy. “Boomerang employees” are former employees who may return to your company at some point with more diverse experience along with existing knowledge that allows them to hit the ground running when they do.

According to LinkedIn, returning employees accounted for 4.5% of all new hires among companies in 2021, up from 3.9% in 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported. Many companies are realizing the benefit of engaging past employees, not just as rehires, but also as resources for new employee referrals. In fact, Starbucks recently launched an alumni website specifically to recruit past employees for new roles with a gift card incentive.

Starbucks isn’t just bringing their alumni back for rehire; they are building an alumni network through which they can communicate with past employees, connect them with other Starbucks alums, and offer career development opportunities and resources – even if they’re not planning on rejoining the company.

Reduced hiring costs, higher retention rates, and long-term loyalty are just a few of the benefits of engaging boomerang alumni employees. It costs half as much to rehire an ex-employee as it does to hire a brand-new person; rehires are 40% more productive in their first quarter at work and tend to stay in their jobs longer. Research also suggests the average Fortune 500 company could save $12 million a year by actively recruiting alumni.


How to Create Your Alumni Network

When employees exit your organization, whether voluntarily or due to a restructure, you want to continue to nurture the employee-employer relationship knowing that those same employees may go on to become great resources either for referrals or as rehires.

Setting up an alumni network can be as simple as adding past employees (who left the company in good standing) to an email list and segmenting them. You can also create a LinkedIn or Facebook group and ask them to join as a step in the exit interview process. This creates two opportunities for your company: 1) contact with former talent that you’d love to have boomerang back to you at some point and 2) a source for referrals that is nearly as good as your existing employee base. After all, they already know your company culture, and you know them.

Send every team member off well. Thank them for their service and solicit their willingness to stay in touch. A successful boomerang recruiting process begins right before an employee leaves. Create an offboarding process that includes determining which employees are “regrettable turnover,” which means that they would be welcomed should they choose to return. The next step lets the departing employee know that their return would be welcomed. And finally, it gets their permission to keep in touch after they leave.

It’s also easy to set up a career site landing page to re-open the lines of communication with past talent. Take a look at some examples to get an idea of how these pages are structured in your industry. We shared the example of Starbucks above, but many companies have corporate alumni networks. P&G has one, so does Accenture, McKinsey & Company, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Google, and hundreds more. Search for “corporate alumni networks” and you’ll find some great ideas.

We’ve only just begun to see the impact of the turbulent global economy of the past two years, but scenario planning is always a good idea. While most companies are going strong on hiring, in some industries we are beginning to see restructuring or layoffs. Recruiting and HR leaders know that good employees don’t stay on the market for very long, which can make restructuring or layoffs painful for our organizations. Having a plan in place to hire and engage outgoing employees can also help lessen the impact on your company management and workforce.

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