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former employees

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Unfortunately, talented and valued employees leave us all the time. Even when they're happy with their job and workplace. In fact, our What Workers Want 2024 survey shows that 50% of those who plan to change jobs in the next 2 years are happy with their current job and workplace. But sometimes, you get an offer you cannot refuse. Other times, it's simply a desire for new challenges and development opportunities, or even practical reasons such as moving or starting a family, which leads to a resignation. The point being, most employments do not end poorly. 

But what happens when a former employee wants to come back? Maybe the new job wasn't what they expected or they've been made redundant due to downsizing? Or years later, you post a job ad and a former employee applies?

Returning employees – or boomerang employees – is a complex affair. Potentially there's a lot of benefits to rehiring, but conversely, many employers experience that returning employees will be gone quickly again. Below we'll walk you through both the benefits and risks, as well as how to increase your chances of succesfully rehiring boomerang employees. 

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What are the benfits of returning employees?

It's not secret: It's difficult to find qualified candidates in many industries. And it's even harder to assess whether a candidate is the right match for your workplace. These are usually the reasons why you're tempted to welcome former employees back into the fold, when the opportunity arises. 

So why should you consider a rehire?

 They already know the company culture, and you know they're a good match for you as a manager and potentially the other colleagues in your team, depending on how long ago their first tenure was. 
 They know the company processes and systems. Even though new technologies, tools or processes may have been introduced, this is usually where you can really notice a different by rehiring a former employee. 
 It's great for your employer branding when a former employee wants to return to your company. It sends a great signal to both their external network, but also internally in your organisation.
 It's cheaper. The recruitment process is faster, onboarding is faster, training is faster and the employee will be at full capacity faster. 

When should you be careful with boomerang employees?

Rehiring isn't always a good solution, no matter how skilled the employee is or how well the relationship ended the last time. Because there's sometimes more to the reason why the employee left you. 

Rehiring may not be a great idea, if:

There is any type of tension between the employee and the management team and/or colleagues they'll work closely with. If the employee quit due to dissatisfaction with something that hasn't changed, it's very likely to become an issue again. And if the employee already knows many of their colleagues well, they are likely to quickly become comfortable sharing their concerns loudly in the office. 
The employee expects different processes and negotiations than any other candidate. Even though you may know each other well, the same expectations and conditions should be met as with any other applicant. Don't compromise significantly on the requirement profile, and take some time to consider whether you may be wearing rose-tinted glasses. 
► The workplace is significantly different. In many cases it won't matter, but in others, the advantage of a returning employee may disappear if they no longer know the systems, colleagues, processes or workflows anyway. And besides, change is hard, so if the employee expects to return to the 'good old days', it might be better to bring in fresh talent. 
The employee is just the 'safe choice'. It's understandable to have a fear of hiring the wrong person, thinking that with a rehire at least you know what you're getting. But honestly, the risk is probably just as high that it won't be quite what you expected. 

How to make rehiring successful


Good rehiring start with a good offboarding process. When an employee resigns (or is terminated), you should not only expect them to return their computer and redirect their emails. Negotiate a severance and organise a personal exit interview, where you can clarify their reasons for leaving and ensure you part ways in a positive way. 

Alumni network

If your company has a certain size, it may be a good idea to create an alumni network for current and former employees. This way you can stay in touch and you can keep your former employees up to date with what's happening in the company and which open positions you have. It also makes it easier for a former employee to return. 


Finally, although reboarding is usually used for employees returning from sick leave or parental leave, it can also be useful for a rehire – depending on how long the employee has been away. It can make onboarding much quicker and better, both for the returning employee but also for the rest of the team. You can read more about reboarding and how to create a good reboarding plan right here

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