Sam Tews November 9, 2022 7 min read

Boomerang Employees

“I’ll be back” was a catchphrase made famous in the 1980s thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in The Terminator. (It’s hard to even say these three words without adopting the intensely deep and threatening Schwarzenegger accent…”I’lllll beeee bach.”)

40 years later, this catchphrase means something different in the workplace…introducing the boomerang employee!

A boomerang employee is an employee that returns to work for a previous employer. And just like the actual game, a boomerang employee can return once, or multiple times. Thanks to “The Great Resignation” aka “The Great Shuffle”, boomerang employees (BEs) are creating a strategic opportunity in today’s workforce, presenting both risk and reward for the employer.

The Rewards!

  • BEs offer a low-cost recruiting solution. Employers can easily pull a report of past employees, their reason for departure, and their direct contact information. (That’s right, their personal phone number to call or text – every recruiter’s dream!) After a brief analysis of this report, you have a target list of qualified candidate prospects to contact.


  • Fast-forward the onboarding & training with BEs. BEs have existing knowledge in so many areas: the industry, the business, the people, the clients, the processes, etc. Therefore, employers can simplify the onboarding & training time to just focus on the new information. This means that BEs can almost add immediate value to an organization.


  • Create a success story that others can learn from. When BEs return to a prior place of employment, there is likely a special story to be shared. Is it because the company culture is unlike any other? Is it because the leader aligns with their values? Is it because the compensation/benefits are better? Encourage BEs to share their story! These stories might serve as a strong retention tactic.


The Risks!

  • Maintaining internal equity might be a challenge with BEs. BEs are unlikely to return to the same role at the same pay. In a recent Forbes article, it was reported that BEs earn on average 25% more money when they return. This increase may pose some compensation challenges with other employees in similar roles or your overall compensation philosophy.


  • What’s holding a BE back from leaving again? Employers need to understand why a BE left in the first place, and if those risk factors remain in place today. Get honest with the BE and talk about these realities before welcoming them back to the team.


  • Do BEs have a stigma? We know that trust and loyalty are important elements of high-performing teams. If a BE returns to a team, will other team members question their commitment or welcome them back with open arms? To support the team in moving forward, consider organizing an assimilation meeting to reconnect employees and create a safe place to talk about individual and team goals.

Today’s hiring environment is competitive! Employees are still resigning at record-high rates, and as a result of this extreme labor movement, it’s hard to build confidence in your recruitment, let alone your workforce strategy. Before heading into your next recruitment meeting, think about how Boomerang Employees could impact your workforce.