Boomerang Candidates – Recruiting Former Employees

No matter what industry sector, we all know there’s a general growing trend toward protecting the environment and recycling. And it’s not just about saving the planet; it’s about reusing and taking advantage of products that still have value. This phenomenon has also been a long-standing tradition in the area of second hand clothing stores or consignment shops.

So, why not think about “recycling” former employees back into your workplace? That’s right…bring them back! In fact, they might be really good candidates for your current job opportunity. After all, former employees have a fairly good handle on the nature of your business. In fact, they may have chosen to leave only to pursue a career opportunity that wasn’t available in your organization.

Interestingly enough, recent research on “boomerang” employees, those individuals who left and returned to a former employer, showed that these individuals did indeed leave more frequently for other career opportunities and/or for personal reasons. As well, the research found that these individuals typically returned to the former employer within a three-year period of time.

Actually, my professional position is that anyone who leaves your organization should be always considered an “alumni” who could hold value for you in the future. These individuals, especially if they were valuable employees, are good for network referrals. Keep in touch with them; they know the type of individual who would fit in well at your organization. They know the skills, the personalities, the leadership style and the requirements for success. These former employees can, at the very least, refer others to you for consideration. Then again, as more challenging opportunities arise, these same “alumni” can be excellent candidates to return and make another significant contribution to your organization.

As demonstrated in research, job dissatisfaction is not always the automatic reason people choose to leave an employer. Sometimes it is simply an opportunity that cannot be passed up. However, the situation does suggest that an organization can reduce the chance of employee leaving by ensuring an effective new-employee orientation process and providing an ongoing mentor connection so that the employee can be coached and guided in a career direction. And, if/when the individual can no longer progress within your organization, I believe there is nothing wrong with helping them move to other opportunities that would develop their skills and prepare them for a return to your organization.

At the same time, I cannot stress enough the importance of the exit interview and transition process when someone is leaving your organization. Since your alumni relationship starts immediately after the individual’s resignation, their treatment during this exit process is key to retaining their loyalty and creating a chance for their return. While the resignation might hurt your organization on the short term, keep in mind that you’ve invested in this person and you valued their contribution. Surely, investing in a continuing relationship is also worth your time and energy.

However, staying in touch with alumni and cultivating a loyal bond is not as easy as it might seem. Successful strategies have included annual alumni social events or receptions. More recently of course, many organizations have started their own alumni websites and email campaigns that allow former employees to interact with each other and to stay tuned to the direction and success of their former employer. Some organizations will send out staff or company newsletters and notices to former employees to attend staff fun events. Still, others ensure their managers stay in close touch by including them in their personal network. And in fact the research shows that most boomerang employees are rehired as a direct result of a personal relationship. In other words, when you make that recruiting call, it is a so-called, “warm call” and not a “cold call”.

Recruiting former employees to your organization can provide additional specific benefits. For instance, now that they’ve been away from your firm for awhile, they may be able to bring competitive intelligence to your industry sector. Overall, they are less expensive to train because their learning curve is shorter, and they can act as mentors more quickly because of their previous knowledge.
In a time of challenging recruitment scenarios, keeping in touch with alumni and considering them for positions within your organization is a valuable idea.

Source: They’re Gone – But not for Long, Dori Meinert, HR Magazine, June 2013.