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Boomerang Employees are a Good Thing
Published Thursday, December 22, 2016

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, a lesson learned by boomerang employees—employees who leave a company and then decide to return. However, they may find returning to former pastures easier. According to a study conducted by Kronos, a workforce management firm in Massachusetts, nearly half of human resource professionals work for organizations that once, but no longer, disallowed the rehiring of former employees.

“I worked in the corporate world for many years, and it was common knowledge: if you left, you left, and that was that,” says Leonard Rishkofski, president of Snowden Associates, an HR consulting firm in Portsmouth. “But today it’s much more common, and it’s going to become a necessary practice for our industries so they can achieve what they need to accomplish.”

Boomerang employees have proven to be a great resource for Gillian Tierney, vice president of human resources at Amadeus in Portsmouth, a producer of cloud-based hospitality technology formerly known as Newmarket International until an acquisition.

“I’ve been in HR for close to 20 years, and I’ve always rehired strong former employees who left on good terms,” says Tierney. “If they were a great employee, why wouldn’t we want to welcome them back?”

Tierney says there are several benefits to rehiring boomerang employees, including reduced or eliminated training, the employee’s fresh perspective and new experience, prior knowledge of the company and its operations, and the employer’s familiarity with the associate.

“There’s always that unknown factor when you hire someone you don’t know,” she says. “When you rehire an employee, you typically know what you’re getting in terms of skillset, motivation and attitude.”

Tierney says the gap between a boom-erang employee’s departure and rehiring has varied in her experience, with some reapplying as quickly as three months later and others rejoining after almost a decade. When employees return, she says they tend to stay for a long time.

This can sometimes be attributed to having left for a higher salary but ending up overall dissatisfied, according to Delise West, president and founder of Human Resource Partners in Concord and Dover, an HR outsourcing firm. “An employee may have left for a higher salary, but when they actually calculated their entire benefits package, it didn’t add up as strongly,” says West. “They may come back with an appreciation for the fact the grass isn’t always greener.”

NH’s Talent Pool Problem

The aging of NH’s workforce and low unemployment rate contribute to the allure of boomerang employees, especially among senior level employees. From 2010 to 2015, U.S. Census Bureau estimates showed a 1 percent decline in both total population and workforce participation among NH citizens aged 16 to 64, whereas for people 65 years and older in NH there was a 1 percent increase in both categories for the same period.

Top this off with low unemployment of around 3 percent, and Rishkofski says the Granite State has a talent pool problem, specifically in terms of executive positions and for industries like finance, technology and sales. “For senior level positions in particular, I think companies are going to have to rely more on people in their sixties and seventies,” says Rishkofski. “The average person thought they’d retire around 55, and that’s just not happening anymore.”

When a company hires a former employee, Rishkofski says they’re typically bringing back a skilled employee already familiar with the company, its product or service, and its clients. And there are other savings beyond training. Retired individuals are likely covered under Medicare, and salaries can be lower as they are often looking for part-time work.

“Retired people are looking for quality of life, so you can’t think about hiring them with a 9-to-5 schedule,” says Dawn Barker, vice president of human resources at RiverWoods in Exeter, a nonprofit retirement community, and president of the Seacoast Human Resource Association. “Instead, they could serve in part-time roles and be wonderful mentors and coaches for younger members of the company.”

Rehiring Policies

West says a defined process is essential when rehiring former employees. In general, she suggests an exit interview for every departing employee, which will directly impact a company’s decision to potentially rehire an employee. “If they left the company disgruntled, and the issue was never resolved, they’re going to continue to be frustrated if they’re rehired,” West says. She also suggests boomerang employees go through the same hiring process as any other applicant.

Tierney points out a past record with a company shouldn’t automatically guarantee a rehire. “They still have to apply for a position and be the right candidate for the job,” she says.

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