Welcoming back ex-employees – or “boomerang employees” – is becoming a popular recruiting practice, as the rationale for it is simple.
Former staff members already understand the organisation’s work structure and culture, which makes them less risky hires.
But it’s undeniable that potential emotional and organisational pitfalls exist in this hiring scenario.
Firstly, there are always questions to deal with: Why did he/she leave in the first place? Won’t he/she leave again?
Obviously, there was a clear reason why the ex-employee left the company, and even though the willingness of the employee to re-join the same company suggests that he/she may have gotten over that reason, it doesn’t suggest the reason isn’t present anymore.
This reason to quit can take on any form – from annoying colleagues, to lack of a cultural fit, to a shortage of career development opportunities.
Until and unless organisations are clear that these issues have been resolved, there will always be a risk that the employee will leave again.
Marry that with the fact that the employee in question is a flight risk, and the probability of them leaving only increases – he/she has left before when things got too tough, what’s to say they won’t do it again?
It’s easy to counter that by saying that even if there’s a risk of the employee quitting again, the valuable and familiar skills that he/she brings in make this risk a worthy one to take.
But the one thing they forget in such a scenario is that things have changed. Their information is from a different time and context, when the organisation was facing different challenges, and when the employee had a smaller breadth of experiences and skills.
By the time of return, both the employee and the company might have changed, and that employee’s skills might not be suited for the organisation’s current set of challenges.
And this can only lead to the employee encountering difficulty fitting in, and perhaps also cracks in working relationships.
In such a situation, an objective and vigorous hiring assessment needs to be made to ensure the candidate is suitable for the role at hand.
It’s easy to rely on old and familiar faces to help overcome talent challenges – especially those whom we’ve had good working experiences with – but the easy way out isn’t necessarily the perfect way out.
Instead, ask yourself whether a fresh start with a new candidate, and a new set of skills and experiences might be better to boost your organisation’s growth.