Boomerang employees: 4 reasons why rehiring former staff is an advantage

Melanie Masur photo
Melanie Masur

Published on September 18, 2023


Whether or not to welcome a former staff member back into the fold is an interesting question on its face. For many hiring managers, there’s a feeling of disloyalty - that the trust between you was broken the first time around. 

That’s one way to look at things. But as we’ll see, you lose out on potential advantages when you close the door to those who’ve left in the past.

These “boomerang employees” can be a shortcut to more efficient hiring, renewed motivation, and an injection of hard-to-find skills. 

This article presents four good reasons why keeping the door open to past employees can be a secret weapon.

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What is a boomerang employee?

As you surely know, when you throw a boomerang (correctly), it comes back. Similarly, a boomerang employee is one who leaves your company for any number of reasons, and eventually comes back.

They may return to the same role, a more senior status, or in a completely different field. 

And it’s not just a clever name. There is a real phenomenon in recent years of team members leaving their jobs, only to return after a relatively short period of time. 

Why are boomerang employees top of mind today? 

One key event may have accelerated this trend: Covid. At first, the pandemic seemed like bad news for workers. Services businesses shut their doors, staff were furloughed or let go, and the impact on “life at work” appeared existential. 

But then came the great resignation. Companies were caught short on staff and employees found themselves in a very favourable market. Many left for new opportunities, for higher salaries, or to try their hands at something else. 

But we now have a few interesting statistics: 

  • According to one study in the US, 43% of people who left their jobs during the pandemic say they wish they hadn’t. 

  • Per another study, 80% of employees regretted leaving their roles.

  • 62% of those feel their own old job was better than the new one.

  • One (US) study found that 28% of recent “new hires” were boomerang employees who had left in the past three years. 

Perhaps the grass is always greener, or “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” That’s not really important for this article. Instead, we’ll meet three Spendeskers who’ve returned successfully, bringing new experiences and perspectives with them.

Meet three Spendeskers who left and came back

Pierre-Emmanuel Branger, Sales

“I have 6 years' sales experience from both Spendesk and Modjo working as a BDR. I also created and sold a company, and got a taste of entrepreneurship for over three years.

In May 2023, I returned to Spendesk, this time to join the account executive team.

Emma Arpagian, Customer Success

“I first joined Spendesk as an intern in the marketing department. I loved it, but after nine months, I needed to finish my studies. After that, I worked at Nespresso in a more customer-facing role, which really suited me. I then rejoined Spendesk with new skills, this time in customer success.”

Alexandre Vouillon, Partnerships

“I joined Spendesk in 2019 as a BDR and quickly evolved into an Account Executive position. I loved seeing our tremendous growth, the evolution in our teams, our product, and our processes. But after three years, I wanted to grow further in a new environment.”

4 advantages of hiring boomerang employees

Hiring managers seem to be mixed on bringing back former staff. In the UK, two-fifths are “reluctant” to consider boomerang employees. You’ll also find plenty of success stories, including the three in this article. 

When the timing and motivation are right, the advantages seem clear. Here are just four. 

1. A reliable culture fit

Culture fit is so vital in hiring. Companies do (and should) place real emphasis on clearly defining their own values, and offer referral bonuses to staff in part as a shortcut to culture fit. 

Employees are looking for this, too. According to Pierre-Emmanuel, “When you decide to join a company, you expose yourself to two risks: not fitting in with the culture, and not feeling fulfilled in the job. In re-joining Spendesk, I was certain I fit with the company’s values. So that eliminated 50% of the potential issues.”

For Emma, Spendesk’s culture was hard to find elsewhere, and the driving force in her return. “The first thing that struck me when I joined were the values and corporate culture. Even though it was mainly remote (it was right after Covid), I quickly felt included and part of the tribe.” 

“I had to leave for my studies. But I knew that thanks to Spendesk, my standards in terms of corporate culture were now very high, and that it would be hard to find such a great match again.”

2. A renewed motivation

Human motivation is complicated. Even in a trusting, stimulating environment, some staff will long for something new and different. It’s natural, and companies gain very little from taking this personally or holding it against people. 

And it’s quite the compliment when past employees apply to return. They know the business, its challenges, and where they’ll fit in. And the time away can help people recognise the aspects they loved most about being in this team. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

For Alexandre, “the year of break and some new projects gave me the chance to step back and mature a little. And I was very excited to come back and join the Partnerships team. This team is quite new, there are a lot of things to do and some exciting projects. There are a lot of new upgrades to the Spendesk product and my new boss Thomas has a bold and inspiring mission.

“I can't wait to learn new things and build a new huge source of acquisition of Spendesk. This motivates me everyday.”

As we’ll see, the actual interview process can be much more efficient. But returning candidates are still motivated to show their value. 

As Pierre-Emmanuel explains, “I was quite stressed, because I wanted to prove to my interviewers that I belonged here again. I was aware of how fulfilling it would be to come back to Spendesk, and I did everything I could to succeed in the interviews.”

3. A more honest interview process

Job interviews always involve a level of performance. Both sides are testing the other out, trying to differentiate the core truths from the rose-tinted lens. 

For Pierre-Emmanuel, the most refreshing part about interviewing for a new role at Spendesk was the effect on the interview process. “They adapted the overall structure of the process and I was able to have meaningful discussions. We didn’t need to get to know each other, and I didn’t need to convince anyone that I knew the work.

“We talked about strategy, the roadmap, and where I could fit in when I came back. Nobody focused on why I'd left. It was very enriching, very human and caring.”

4. New skills from the outside world

Companies spend huge sums on training and development, both for core job tasks and to help staff build new competencies. At Spendesk, we have a collaborative learning academy and give interview skills training, among many other initiatives. Learning and development will always be crucial. 

But the new skills and experience that can be gained outside the company are also significant. Boomerang employees may have spent time in a different company structure, a new industry, and perhaps a completely different job description. 

“Spendesk was my first real professional experience,” says Emma. “I joined the marketing team, which I really enjoyed. But I also got to work closely with the customer success team, and found this fascinating.”

“I finished my studies, and then joined Nespresso. I was no longer in the tech world, but could use some key skills in this new position. Among these, my favourite part of the job was talking to customers and building relationships. At Nespresso I learned some key skills in terms of customer service and providing quality at all times. It’s a huge company with a tested playbook, and learning this was very helpful.

“I can now apply those lessons in the scaleup environment, which is fast-paced and all about adaptability. I have the best of both worlds: using insights from a standardised global business in a fast-growing, evolving scaleup.”

Keep an open mind to boomerang employees

Clearly not every past employee is a great candidate to return. But where there’s a fit, the skills and talent are clear, and the relationship remains on good terms, there’s little reason not to welcome former staff back. 

But as noted above, some hiring managers in the UK remain unwilling. One common objection: they left us before. Why wouldn’t they leave us this time? 

But every employee leaves at some point, and you have no idea that a fresh hire is more likely to stay. In fact, you only have less information about someone brand new. And by ruling out returning team members, you miss out on a few clear advantages. 

Boomerang employees offer:

  • A faster, more honest interview process

  • An immediate culture fit, provided there haven’t been huge changes in the interim

  • New skills and perspectives they couldn’t have learned in-house

  • A renewed motivation to help the business succeed

We’ve met three successful, thriving Spendesk boomerang employees, each with their own reasons for leaving and returning. Judging by their stories and perspectives, we hope to see many more in the years to come.

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