top of page

Letter to Leaders

The Pros & Cons Of Employee Boomerangs

We don’t have a single client that doesn’t have a hiring or retention issue right now. EVERYONE is desperate to find and retain employees.

Given this atmosphere, there's a mandate for out-of-the-box thinking. Or (at least) to stop binding your future to "this is the way we've always done it."

A boomerang is an employee who leaves your company, but then later returns to work for you again.

Many companies have a written “no re-hire” policy. This is small-time thinking in today’s workforce. I find that many of those executives use that policy as an excuse to not re-hire bad former employees. (That’s a good example of leadership cowardice).

But the no-hire policy is a classic example of "One Size Fits All" thinking. What happens if you have a great, valued employee whose partner gets transferred out of state? A couple of years later they return. Are you telling me you wouldn't want that employee back in your company?

Don't bind yourself with a policy that can prevent you from hiring the best possible person.

For those coward leaders: just tell a bad former employee that re-hire is not an option.

Why wouldn’t you give an open position to a former employee who was great?

Here are some pros, cons and tips on boomerangs:


  • You know what you’re getting, and they know what they’re getting

  • They may need less training than an employee ‘from the outside’

  • Some studies show boomerangs have greater employee loyalty on their return. (We have several clients that can attest to that)

  • Boomerang employees often return with more experience, perspective, and skills

  • Some boomerangs discover the “grass isn’t always greener” at another company. That theory helps inform your existing employees when a boomerang returns. It isn’t always better out there.


  • The longer they’ve been away, the harder it will be for them adjusting to changes in culture or policies. We tend to sentimentalize the past as it moves farther away. We forget the stuff we didn’t like and mostly remember the good times.

  • A returning employee may not be as a good a fit as other candidates

  • If they looked for outside employment once, there’s a likelihood they’ll do it again, and then you’ll be back to square one.

Things to consider:

  • Did they leave for the right reasons? In my view, "good" reasons include:

  • lots more money

  • personal issues

  • an opportunity to further their career, learn new skills, or achieve educational goals

  • Was the departure clean? Did they give adequate notice? Did they help out in the transition? Create a positive exit experience? Staying employees watch how you treat departing employees

  • What did the prior supervisor believe were their strengths and weaknesses?

  • What have they done since? What new skills do they bring to the table?

Don’t close your mind when it comes to rehires. They can be valuable during a talent crunch.

It's a 'one size fits one' world out there. Don’t limit yourself by enacting sweeping policies.

Instead, make your decisions on a case-by-case basis.


bottom of page