Boomerang Employees –The Untapped Secret Talent Market

That's not a valid work email account. Please enter your work email (e.g.
Please enter your work email

boomerang flying To be honest, the idea of the boomerang employee – that is, a former employee who you rehire and restore to their former glory – has in the past not really been part of a deliberate hiring strategy for the masses. Why? There were three main reasons for this.

The first was that employees rarely left organizations, relative to today’s market place. It was pre-startup boom, disrupt and bust era, and people stayed put. There were simply far less alumni on the market.

Secondly, pre-social media and way back before Friends Reunited, there was really no cost efficient way to stay in touch or reconnect with alumni, which means alumni re-engagement was not a viable talent strategy for the masses.

And finally, there was not a global talent war and fresh talent was more freely available on the market place; there was no need to chase after dearly departed talent.

But, of course all those things have changed; talent is scarce, talent is transient and will leave you, but interestingly you also have the capacity to stay in touch easily and inexpensively through social media. Check Linked-In and you will see there are 127,000 Alumni groups and there will be more on Facebook. This means it is easier than ever to reconnect and potentially rehire talent and restore them to their former glories. But, should you?

There are, of course ,drawbacks to hiring any type of employee including boomerangs. For example, it can make you appear desperate, the original problems which caused them to leave could resurface, resentment or jealousy can occur if rehires return and leapfrog employees who stayed at the firm in terms of pay and grade.

But, in today’s talent-sensitive climate, mission-critical employees are like gold dust and can be the make or break for certain projects or initiatives in your business. Therefore, can an organization really afford to overlook the precious talent pool of former employees as found in an alumni group? Organizations spend thousands trying to find employees that fit the culture and/or molding current employees to the desired culture, yet your alumni provides you with a ready made culture fit pool of talent.

A WSJ article highlights that boomerangs are cheaper to hire as there is reduction in the need for resume sifting and external hiring fees as the employees are partially pre-selected – and they also point out that boomerang employees tend to have higher retention rates on their return, because they have seen that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side. Also, alumni know the culture of the business and will be able to get up to speed quicker, and they may also be able to provide a fresh perspective and competitive intelligence and they may also encourage the return of other talented boomerang employees. The benefits of boomerang employees are numerous.

Therefore, in this time and corporate age of talent scarcity, employers cannot afford to overlook such a supreme talent pool as that of the boomerang employee and I think that all employers big or small should make Alumni engagement and re-engagement core to their talent management strategy. So, how can employers achieve this?

It would involve:

  • starting and/or engaging with alumni forums and presenting job opportunities to the forum;
  • updating alumni on positive changes and events in the business,
  • targeting/head hunting top performers who left,
  • advertising consultancy and contracting opportunities to connect with those who may have started their own firms or who are thinking about it.

Also, when employees leave they should be invited to join the alumni and it should be made clear to them that you have an active alumni re-engagement strategy should the network be looking for new opportunities at some point in the future. Bring the alumni group into your talent community’s strategy.

It is clear that boomerang employees — your talent from the past — have the potential to be revitalized and turned into your stars of your present and the future.

By Kazim Ladimeji