(Re)capturing Full Value

By Phil Rainsberger

Not long ago, I wrote about some of the issues (real and imagined) surrounding hiring millennials.  Today, a look from the other side of the street—specifically, the benefits of reaching back and hiring organizational alumni.

The idea isn't as peculiar as it might appear at first blush.  During a time when human capital supply is tight and enterprise agility is at a premium, alums are ideal resources for any number of reasons, not least of which is that their learning curve in terms of corporate culture is minimal; their attributes are known, and their time away from the mother-ship has likely broadened their perspectives and skill sets.

Even the best (and best-compensated) of employees will leave for greener pastures.  That's hard to swallow, but it happens. With workers changing not only jobs but also career paths more frequently than in the past, someone's departure now seems less a betrayal and more a nice opportunity to gain new experience.

But what if that employee later wants to return?

The number of these “boomerang employees"—the nickname given to employees who leave but ultimately return – is on the rise.  Several factors are converging to increase the use of boomerang employees. One is that social media sites, like LinkedIn, make it easier for company leaders to stay in touch with former employees, whether they’re in the office next door or halfway across the country.

Another is that bringing back a former employee who has gained a valuable new skill or expanded his or her network can be beneficial for your company, too.

Would you rehire a former employee? Assuming you two parted on good terms, here’s why you should strongly consider doing just that.

For one, the employee who departed may have been popular with co-workers and the resulting void may have led to decreased satisfaction on the part of remaining workers and the return of that person is welcome and the unspoken message is that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. 

There's also an upside even if the dismissed employee was released “for cause.” In such cases, the alum's return shows the employer is willing to be open-minded and offer a second chance.  

The bottom line is that when employees return they bring with them the hard-skills and soft-skills they picked up during their time away.  More importantly, organizations significantly reduce their risk (and costs) by welcoming back alums. Sometimes work IS better the second time around—particularly in these days of relentless change.