Boomerang Employees: The Pros, The Cons, and How to Uncover Their Potential

Boomerang-EmployeesAs the great resignation continues on, a record number of Americans are quitting their jobs. There are more job openings than people willing to fill them, and many employees are shopping around for roles at different organizations, leaving the workforce entirely, or being recruited away. But what happens if your departed employees want to come back? 

Enter: the boomerang employee. 

Download our latest report on the 2021 Employee Turnover and Retention Trends >


What is a boomerang employee?


Boomerang employees are people who leave their organization and return at a later date. These rehired employees either leave the workforce entirely or take a job at another organization, then come back to seek employment at their former company. 

Before, employees who left were often seen as disloyal. But that stereotype is fading as employers now understand it’s common for employees to work at many different organizations throughout their career. And with technology keeping people in touch at new levels, boomerang employees are becoming a common reality in the workplace. 


Why do boomerang employees leave?


Boomerang employees can leave for both personal and professional reasons. Understanding why an employee left can be one of the deciding factors behind offering them a position. Here’s a list of the top three reasons that employees temporarily leave:


1. Growth and development purposes

One of the top reasons that employees decide to leave is because they want to advance in their career. They may leave for higher pay, an elevated role, or the opportunity to build upon their skills


2. To explore something new

It’s easy for employees to feel like they’re in a rut—especially after working at the same company for numerous years. A common reason that employees leave temporarily is to try something new. Maybe they want to experience other industries, try out a role that isn’t offered at your organization, or follow a passion. 


3. Personal life

Let’s face it—your employees are human and are bound to face things that could interfere with their ability to work. Maybe they are taking care of a child, relocating, or dealing with a medical condition. Regardless, these employees temporarily leave due to events in their personal life. 


Pros and cons of hiring a boomerang employee


The Pros

Hiring a boomerang employee can be very beneficial to your organization, especially considering the reduced time and money it takes to recruit, train, and onboard them. They have familiarity with your company culture and organizational expectations from their prior experience, but still bring back a different, fresh perspective. 

In addition, their performance is more predictable than a completely new employee and they have a stronger ability to perform great immediately, especially after they've developed and built upon their skills when they were gone. 


The Cons

While these benefits can be very appealing, the potential risks are also important to consider. There’s a possibility that your current employees hold resentment, and might disagree with your decision to rehire the boomerang employee, leading to decreased morale and a less-than-favorable work environment. 

Plus, these employees have the possibility of leaving again and can have a lower longevity than true new hires. This risk may seem like one worth taking when considering their past experience, but the truth is, boomerang employees may need more time than you think to readjust. And your familiarity with the employee may mask whether they are truly the best fit for the role. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that you might not be able to offer the same benefits or wages as you did in the past, leading to unmet expectations or resentment from the employee. And if old complaints or dissatisfaction resurfaces—on either side—morale is sure to plummet. That’s why it’s important to leverage tools that help you understand the potential of these employees to better mitigate talent risk. 

How can software uncover the potential of boomerang employees?


  • Talent reviews help you understand where past performance stood. With this tool, you can look back at old reviews to understand their performance history, or if their strengths align with their potential role. 
  • Engagement, pulse, and lifecycle surveys help you understand employee perceptions at all important points of their tenure. With these insightful survey results, you can understand how this employee felt while working at your organization and uncover why they left with exit surveys
  • Goals help you understand what previous initiatives the employee accomplished. Did the employee hit deadlines? Did they accomplish each key metric in every goal? This information will help you measure performance, perseverance, and the work ethic of previous employees. 
  • Recognition helps you understand others’ perceptions of a returning employee. Because recognition can be given from any employee across the company, you can understand what a previous worker excelled in or how they made an impact within the organization.  
  • 1-on-1s help efficiently document employee manager conversations. By looking back at 1-on-1s, managers can see past roadblocks, prior coaching initiatives, and employee strengths. 
  • Two-way feedback helps leaders understand both feedback given by the returning employee and the feedback they received. This can give you insight into how they felt about their leaders and how their leaders felt about them. 
  • People analytics can help you dig into the engagement and performance data of a past employee. You can use tools like performance snapshot and flight risk to understand the deeper trends behind an employee’s departure or previous performance.

While hiring a boomerang employee can have many benefits, it’s important to leverage tools that help you understand the big picture behind a former employee’s past tenure. With the right software, you can make informed people decisions and navigate the modern workplace with the right talent. 


While boomerang employees can provide value, preventing turnover in the first place is typically ideal. Download our 2021 employee turnover trends report and effectively retain talent in the modern workplace. 

2021 Employee Turnover Trends Report

Published January 18, 2022 | Written By Elise Paulsen