The Rise of Boomerang Candidates

IRI Podcast Episode on Boomerang Employees

As we continue to focus on the talent challenges that businesses small and large are currently facing, today we turn our attention to the topic of boomerang employees – employees who return after leaving the company, and they can add a unique value to an organization. Today's guest is Rebecca Zucker, an executive coach and a founding partner at Next Step Partners, a leadership development firm. She recently wrote an article for Harvard Business Review titled “Leave the Door Open for Employees to Return to Your Organization”. Here, she explains:

  • Changing attitudes toward boomerang employees;
  • The value that a returning employee brings to a workplace;
  • Ways employers can make re-entry into their organization easier; and
  • Why staying in touch with former employees is so important!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


New vs Boomerang Employees

  • There is a lot of discussion about developing retention strategies and hanging on to existing talent, however, historically, less companies have been looking at previous employees as a potential talent pool.
  • Advantages to hiring “boomerang employees” include:
    • By doing so, you’re drawing from an already existing great talent pool;
    • They’re able to hit the ground running;
    • They already understand the culture; and
    • They’ve likely gained even more experience that they can bring back to the organization. 
  • “Good” boomerang candidates:
    • Believe in the organization and its mission;
    • Speak highly of the company, even when they were not actively working there, even referring employees and customers to it;
    • Make a strong impact on the organization when they return to the company.


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Hiring Boomerang Employees

  • In recent years, organizations have become more open to boomerang employees knowing they are a strong talent pool because they previously worked for the company. 
  • More employees are also leaving on good terms with their companies so that door stays open in the future, and it is important for employers to make the exiting process as strong as the onboarding one to maintain a strong relationship.
  • Boomerang employees know the company’s culture, and have gone through the training. While things may have changed since they worked for the company the first time, employees are familiar with the workflow. This can be a great advantage for the onboarding process and these boomerang employees can make an impact at the organization very quickly. 

Boomerang Employees in the Current Workforce

  • More people are open to returning to an organization, and there has been an increase in potential boomerang employees, as a result of the disrupted workforce. After they leave an organization and see what else is out there, boomerang candidates may reflect on the positive elements the organization provided. 
  • It is currently an employee market, and people are recognizing that they have options, and one of those options may be to return to a previous employer, perhaps in a more senior role. 

Re-entry for Boomerang Employees

  • In Ms. Zucker’s article, Leave the Door Open for Employees to Return to Your Organization, she outlines ways to make re-entry into an organization easier for boomerang employees: 
    • Normalize leaving the organization through storytelling, and showing what people who have left the company have gone on to do. This makes people feel supported in their decision and sends a strong message to employees.
    • Provide a great employee experience is foundational to providing a re-entry option, because if they don’t have a positive experience, they won’t want to come back.
    • Deliver a strong off-boarding experience on both ends. From a manager perspective, it’s important to show support and wish employees the best of luck, and from an employee perspective, the way you say you are leaving is important to maintain a strong relationship. 
    • Make it clear that the door is always open to an employee’s return. While people may not be thinking about returning to their previous employer immediately, it's about making it an option down the line.
    • Conduct exit interviews to identify where employees want to go with their career, and how that could fit in with the company down the line.

Staying in Touch with Former Employees

  • Employee alumni programs can be a great way to keep people connected and to share information between current and former employees of an organization. By providing informational events, networking functions, or newsletters can highlight the successes of a company alumni and can create connections that can impact an industry as a whole
    • Creating an alumni network, even if it’s a LinkedIn group, can be empowering to other employees to see the success of others.
  • There is some power in keeping track of where employees go after leaving an organization, whether they’ve changed industries, acquired new skills, and what path their career has taken. Keeping that information in a system to stay in touch with them can be helpful to identify potential boomerang candidates and where they might fit into the organization again.

Boomerang Campaign

  • CommonSpirit, a healthcare company, developed a boomerang campaign during the pandemic to find some much needed talent when so many people were suffering from burnout.
    • In this campaign, they explicitly reached out to former employees to see if they were interested in returning to the company in some capacity, whether it be per diem, part time, or contract work. This way, they were able to have support, and enough people to operate, and potentially open up the door to full time work down the line.

Next Step Partners

  • Ms. Zucker’s company, Next Step Partners, provides organizations in all sectors with a number of services. They offer:
    • One-on-one executive coaching
    • Group leadership development programs;
    • Team development; and 
    • Career transition services for departing employees.

Rebecca Zucker Background

  • MBA, Stanford University Graduate School of Business
  • International Business and Economics at NYU Stern School of Business
  • Ms. Zucker began her career as a Financial Management Associate for Equitable and Goldman Sachs
  • She has been a longtime contributor to both Forbes and the Harvard Business Review
  • She currently serves as the Founding Partner at Next Step Partners



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