The Promise (and Risk) of Boomerang Employees | Harvard Business Review

Talent Acquisition

Much has been written about how employees are leaving their jobs in search of an employee value proposition (e.g., pay, more flexible work arrangements) that better aligns with their values and preferences. However, some of these workers have learned that the “grass isn’t always greener” when moving to another company or organization. As many organizations struggle to find talent to meet their needs, there is a significant opportunity for them to re-recruit former employees—often called boomerang employees. To better understand who is most likely to boomerang, when they’re likely to do it, and the factors motivating these workers to take the leap (back), the authors of this article analyzed three million employee records covering more than 120 firms from 2019 to 2022. A few insights include 1) 28% of “new hires” were boomerang hires who had resigned within the last 36 months, 2) boomerang employees are more likely to be managers than non-managers, and 3) most boomerang employees returned to their former employers within 13 months of their departure, suggesting that right after the one-year mark is a common time for employees to transition back. This finding aligns with a Visier analysis showing that 13 months is the average time for rehiring former employees and that the chances of a return drop sharply after former employees have been away for 16 months. The article includes defensive and offensive strategies to help employers capitalize on the boomerang opportunity while mitigating the risks.