Organizational Wellness

An HR Guide for Handling Boomerang Employees

Aug 14, 2023
Last Updated May 10, 2024

As an HR professional, you’re likely no stranger to the challenge of keeping good employees and attracting new talent. But what about those who have already passed through your door? Boomerang employees — those that return after leaving — can be a great asset to any business, but come with limitations and things to look out for.

Experienced workers who come back often have fresh ideas and greater knowledge. They're eager to contribute their talents once again. With proper management, these returning workers can be less expensive to onboard and retain than brand-new employees.

Let's dive right in to learn more about boomerang employees and how you can manage them to keep your workplace productive and thriving.


What Are Boomerang Employees?

A boomerang employee is a worker who returns to the same company they once left. They often return with additional skills and new experiences that can benefit the organization to which they are returning. 

Boomerang workers are often enthusiastically welcomed back because they need less onboarding time than new hires and already understand the company culture. They can also benefit your other employees, as returning employees can use their new experience to offer mentorships and career advice to the current team.

Why Do Employees Leave Companies and Then Return?

There are many reasons employees voluntarily leave companies on good terms. Maybe they wanted to gain more skills and experience, but there weren't opportunities at your company. Now that they have obtained additional knowledge, they want to work for you again in a new role.

Amid The Great Resignation, many employees are re-evaluating their work life. It's possible that employees left your company during The Great Resignation to reset and get clarity, and now they're re-entering the workforce. Or perhaps they chose to leave for personal reasons, such as a caregiver event, and now they’re ready to come back. 

What Are the Benefits of Rehiring a Boomerang Employee?

Rehiring a former employee can be a great way to bring in experienced talent, one of the many benefits of re-employing previous employees.

They Know The Company Culture

Boomerang employees already understand the culture because they’ve already been immersed in it once before. They know how things work at your company and they know about all your company policies and procedures. 

Additionally, their knowledge of the company culture can be invaluable when it comes to mentoring new staff members or providing advice or coaching within the organization.

Less Intensive Onboarding and Training Needs

Boomerang employees have already worked for your company and have been through the onboarding process. So, when you rehire an employee, you won't have to spend as many resources on onboarding materials, recruitment costs, or training programs.

Instead of weeks-long onboarding periods, you can usually give them a quick refresher in just a few hours or days. Of course, if they need additional organizational training or resources, you can provide them with what they need. Especially if there are new policies and procedures in place or it's been a long time since they worked for your company, but still typically require less effort than an entirely new hire.

More Skills and Experience Acquired

During their time away, these employees may have gained new skills, experiences, and insights from their time at other organizations.They may have acquired certifications or learned new technologies, or simply experienced process improvements they can implement with you. Or perhaps they left to go back to school, and now they have an advanced degree. These fresh experiences and insights can bring a new perspective to the table, helping your company stay innovative and competitive.

How to Handle Boomerang Employees

Now that we've discussed what boomerang employees are, why they choose to come back, and the benefits of rehiring them, let's explore how to handle them.

Assess The Reasons For Their Departure

Before rehiring a boomerang employee, consider the reasons why they left in the first place. Did they leave on bad terms? Or did they have any conflicts with other team members who still work there? These can be assessed before you rehire them, so you can decide whether bringing them back is a good decision. (A team member that left on bad terms may not be the best rehire.)

You can ensure a smoother transition upon their return by addressing and resolving any issues that may have contributed to their departure.

Acknowledge Their Return

Welcome boomerang employees back to the organization and try to reintegrate them into the company culture. This can include announcements, team meetings, or informal gatherings to help them reconnect with their colleagues.

Consider directly acknowledging the elephant in the room and make sure they know there are no negative feelings from when they chose to leave. Letting them know they are welcome back can avoid any awkwardness they may feel about returning.

Reset Expectations

Setting expectations is essential, especially if the boomerang worker is in a new role than the one they were in before. After onboarding, clearly reiterate the expectations and responsibilities associated with their new role. Establish performance goals and objectives to ensure alignment with the company's overall strategy.

Even if they return to the same role, you can still review expectations as a refresher, especially around what’s changed.

Offer Growth Opportunities

Providing opportunities for professional development and career advancement can help keep your rehire around. Two of the key drivers of employee engagement are purpose and development, so this helps demonstrate your commitment to their growth and encourages them to stay with the company long-term. (Especially if they left for a growth opportunity, they’ve shown you how important this is to them.)

Keep Employees Engaged and Thriving 

Once you've onboarded a boomerang employee, there are many ways to reduce the risk of losing them again. An important aspect of such employee retention efforts is focusing on employee wellbeing — 93% of respondents in our 2024 Work-Life Wellness Report said they would consider leaving a company that does not focus on employee wellbeing. 

wellness program is a clear way to demonstrate your company’s dedication to employee wellbeing. Providing your staff with the tools, time, and encouragement to take care of their mental and physical wellbeing goes a long way in showing how much your company values them. And this commitment helps keep your team members on staff: 3 out of 4 HR leaders say their wellness program is very or extremely important to employee retention.

If you want to learn more about how a wellness program can help retain your workforce, reach out to a Wellbeing Specialist today!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


Our weekly newsletter is your source of education and inspiration to help you create a corporate wellness program that actually matters.

By subscribing you agree Wellhub may use the information to contact you regarding relevant products and services. Questions? See our Privacy Policy.