A recent study by The Workforce Institute, a think tank focused on organizational performance, found that a majority of HR staffers were willing to hire a “boomerang” candidate—even if their organizations had policies against bringing former employees back onboard.
At the same time, more employees are eschewing the old narrative of leaving a job and never looking back, in favor of returning to the fold with new knowledge and skills.
While corporate culture is a great impetus for former employees’ return, there are other factors driving bids to return to old companies. If handled right, there are great advantages to rehiring—for both the employee and the employer.
Replicon, a Canadian software company that provides cloud time-tracking applications, has hired more than a dozen “boomerang” employees in the last several years. “Historically, it seems that many people viewed employee resignations as a lack of loyalty to the company, but a lot of that is based on the outdated idea that people will stay at one company for most of their working lives,” noted Vien Nguyen-Vu, the company’s vice president of HR. “As the tenure of staying in one company hovers around three years, employee roles diversify, and [as] the ability to stay in touch with colleagues flourishes with social media, the idea of a ‘boomerang’ is no longer novel.”
Nguyen-Vu has also observed that returning employees, loaded up with new skills, can offer a fresh perspective on an organization’s operations.
Craig Canestrari, a senior principal curriculum developer at Oracle, is one of those boomerang employees. His experience is illustrative of the importance of maintaining good relations with an employer.
Canestrari was working at ATG as a manager of training operations and development when the company was purchased by Oracle. He moved into a product management-training role, only to be laid off after a few months. But the time-out was short-lived: Oracle rehired him as a program manager in product development. It wasn’t what he wanted to do. The further he moved away from his training expertise, the more disconnected he felt, so he began looking elsewhere.
Canestrari landed a position as director of curriculum development and technical documentation for another company. It appeared to be a great fit and felt so right, he ignored the negative rumblings he had heard about the culture—at least at first.
“I really didn’t like environment,” he sighed. “I went for the opportunity but they micromanaged from the top down and it affected the whole function and personality of the organization.” Although he was making more money, working on a director level, and managing a large team, he found himself surrounded by unhappy employees, and didn’t feel he had a significant role.
During a lunch with his former Oracle manager, Canestrari mentioned that his job wasn’t providing the experience he had hoped for. His comment would lead to a conversation about open positions that were in his bailiwick. While he had reservations about coming back, there was a lot about the culture and product that he liked; despite other offers, he chose to return to the familiar setting at Oracle.
Seth Rosen, CEO and co-founder of the Cambridge, Mass.-based startup Custommade.com, an online marketplace that connects customers with independent artisans, lost one of his best software engineers to a bigger, more established company. The competition for engineering resources in the Boston area is ferocious, and Rosen’s employee was lured away by a $20,000 salary increase. “The firm down the street offered him $95,000,” he said. “When he left, it was a huge blow to our team.”
A few months later, Rosen ran into his former employee and jokingly wanted to know when he was coming home. The engineer surprised him by asking if it was at all possible for him to do just that.
“He found there were different expectations and much more bureaucracy,” said Rosen. “He realized a lot of the stuff he liked—smaller teams, more autonomy and more dynamic people—are things you just don’t get at a larger company.”
The rehire advantage to Custommade.com was invaluable. The employee already knew the systems and processes, got along with the team, and, despite the break in employment, was up to speed and productive almost immediately.
Rosen also emphasizes that the engineer’s return had a huge effect on morale. “There’s nothing that sends a more positive message to the other employees then watching somebody leave and then having them realize it’s so good here that they want to come back. From a cultural perspective, it’s really meaningful.”