For years, the thought of an employee returning to a job they had left was almost unthinkable. It wasn’t until recently that “boomerang employees” — employees who leave a company only to return again later on down the line — became an object of attention for recruiters and employers.

The hiring process has become more competitive, and companies are struggling to attract top talent in a very tight market. As a result, a growing number of organizations are recognizing the importance of maintaining relationships with former employees, who comprise a valuable pool of talent.

Additionally, millennials and Generation Z are becoming the biggest demographics in the workforce, and many of them turn to social media and company review sites to find more information about potential employers. But it’s not just younger workers: 79 percent of people use social media to gain insight into employees’ opinions of a company, its leadership team, and its operations.

Former employees — boomerang or otherwise — can be powerful brand ambassadors for your company. Their Glassdoor reviews and social media posts about your brand can be make-or-break factors in a job seeker’s decision to apply for a job at your organization. By maintaining relationships with former employees, you increase the chances that they’ll share positive reviews and recommendations of your brand.

But that’s not all that former employees can do for your organization. Here are a few additional benefits you can reap from staying in contact with workers who have left your company:

1. Hiring Boomerang Employees Can Save You Time and Money

Millennials are a massive pool of talent, accounting for 35 percent of the workforce. But they also don’t like to stay in one place for too long, and 75 percent of millennials believe frequently switching jobs is good for their career.

Who says a talented millennial employee has to leave forever? When a position opens up, your former employees can be a valuable source of hires. They already have knowledge of your industry, your company culture, and your overall operations. That means you won’t have to invest much time or money — if any at all — in training your new (old) hire. Given that it can take 4.8 months for a new employee to ramp up to full productivity, the time you save on training a boomerang employee can both cut your costs and boost your revenue. Your boomerang hire already knows what to do, and they can start contributing from day one.

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2. Employee Alumni Networks Strengthen Relationships and Promote Knowledge-Sharing

In recent years, more and more brands have built alumni networks to say connected with their former employees. Much like an academic alumni network, a corporate alumni network creates a space where your current and former team members can network, share knowledge, get referrals, and even cultivate friendships.

Alumni networks provide plenty of benefits to the individuals who participate, but they can also be a boon your organization. They strengthen your company culture by deepening the ties between current and former employees, and all that knowledge-sharing means your existing team members will have more tools at their disposal to drive your company’s success.

3. Former Employees Can Be Powerful Mentors for Your Current Workers

Today’s workers, millennials especially, want jobs that allow them to grow and develop as professionals. While organizations can go about investing in their workers in a variety of ways, mentorship opportunities can be a particularly powerful way to do so. In fact, in a Gallup poll, 89 percent of millennials and Gen. Z-ers said “they respect and are loyal to supervisors that care and teach them skills and the meaning behind their work.”

Building on the concept of an employee alumni network, you could create a mentorship program that pairs new employees with former employees. This allows tenured workers to transfer knowledge to new workers even after they’ve left the company. When top employees take new roles or retire, you can still retain them as mentors. This can be particularly powerful in the case of retired executives, who can act as valuable mentors for their replacements and the organization as a whole.

Fostering relationships with former employees can provide numerous benefits to both the organization and those employees who left. Former employees can serve as brand ambassadors, mentors for your existing employees, and even prospective candidates in their own right. In an age when talent is hard to find and even harder to keep around, strong relationships with former employees can give your organization the competitive edge it needs.

Andrea Meyer is director of benefits at WorkSmart Systems.

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