Boomerang employee is a special term for employees, who leave the company, but then want to come back. Reasons for that can be different. Some have to leave work for family reasons to take care of someone or move to another city, when a spouse gets a job relocation. Surely it depends on the employee, but if they are key employee for the company and great team player, most likely you’ll be happy to onboard them again.
However, there are pros and cons, as usual.
One of the most well known boomerang employee is Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple after 12 years of working elsewhere. Surely, not every boomerang employee will be next Steve Jobs for your company, but they do have their benefits for the company.
Risk reduction. Risk of unknown for both the boomerang employee and the employer is far less than in case of completely new hire. You’ve already worked with this person and you know their competencies and performance.
Cost reduction. Former employees usually need less time to get back to work at full productivity. The HBR (Harvard Business Review) review article indicates that businesses can save up to 50% on hiring costs per employee by attracting ex-employees. This also saves on efforts to recruit and train boomerang employees and shorter ramp-up period.
Positive employee branding. Look at the process from employer branding perspective. The employee worked with other companies and then chose your company back. That definitely increases the value of your employer brand.
In small and medium companies it is quite common that employee’s leaving might have hurt someone else’s feelings or caused a conflict. In such case hiring this employee back would not be reasonable at all.
Another important aspect is that regular rehiring of boomerang employees might create a habit among employees. If they know that they’re welcome back, whenever they decide to return, they would leave the company quite easily. Most likely such a policy would not be welcome by any company.