Calculating the ROI of Boomerang Employees

Ex-Employees:  The Rehire Metric

I wanted to revisit the subject of hiring boomerang employees. In my post How to Hire Backwards with Boomerang Employees I talked about the positives of hiring former employees and how many companies today are realizing that they may be a very good deal. They are a cheaper hire, they are more quickly productive and they have had the benefit of some other experience that may be of value to the organization.

Not All “Boomerang” Hires Return with Equal Ease

Not everyone is suited to be a boomerang employee. You certainly don’t want to rehire someone who left under these circumstances:

  • They were incompetent
  • They could not get along with management (unless management was at fault and they are no longer with the company)
  • They were unproductive

Remember just because someone used to work for you does not automatically make them the best candidate. You still need to evaluate them given the current set of circumstances and judge them against other candidates, but they certainly will have many positives in their favor.

Is There a Type of Position that is Better for a “Boomerang” Employee?

In the comment section for the last post Tracy asked “Many in the restaurant and hospitality industry shy away from rehires due to LOWER retention rates of the boomerang employee. I wonder is it a difference in the industry or maybe having to do with exempt and non-exempt (hourly) positions. Any insights?” I can’t see why the industry would matter, but I do think that the exempt versus nonexempt status may make a difference, especially in an industry like the restaurant business. Hourly employees often leave jobs for things like more money or a bad boss, not to say that exempt employees don’t, but a salaried exempt employee may be more likely to leave for a challenge, or a chance to be an entrepreneur, or a physical move. In the hourly employee the reason for the dissatisfaction they had before may not have changed and thus bring them back is not going to offer anything different. As a result they may be just as likely to leave in the future.

Going off for a new challenge or a chance to start a business or to move to another locale my produce a “brown grass” situation, where that new situation was not as “green” as they thought it was going to be. That employee may be less likely to go off in the future because they took their shot and had a dose of reality. They come back to the company with a different outlook and perhaps some good experience to offer. The fact that they come back is a signal to others that the company is much better than they thought and may increase retention of other employees who might have had similar inclinations.

There appear to be more positives than negatives

Looking at various posts and articles on boomerang employees there appear to be more positives to hiring back than there are negatives. Here are some of those posts for you to read:

Ex-Employees:  The Rehire Metric

You can measure how you are doing with boomerangs with the following formula:

Rehires as a percentage of total external hires.

Rehires / External Hires * 100

The quality of boomerangs and those ex-employees who are eligible for re-hire will be gauged on following their performance evaluations. Follow these if you want to make your case for catching the boomerangs.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.

Reader Interactions


  1. A Frustrated Manager says

    If you lose a really good employee to the “greener pastures” syndrome and they subsequently want to come back, you need to be sure of what motivated the initial move.

    I had a somewhat introverted, smart, exempt, and well paid employee at an engineering company that left for greener pastures in 2007, only to return in 2008. He didn’t learn his lesson, though, and recently (2012) left to go to work for another competitor and start a new office. He had never been involved in starting an office prior to accepting this offer, and the new employer has no significant local clients or reputation to build on. The new employer (verbally) promised him ownership, bonuses, etc. based on the office’s performance. I give him 6 months before he’s fired, because he doesn’t have the skill sets needed to start and manage a new office. He also has trouble working a full 40 hour work week, and isn’t the “rainmaker” type. Successful entrepreneurs really do have to outwork their staff for the first few years, and managers of start-up service industry operations need to be sales-driven extroverts. He’s a good engineer, but isn’t well suited for this new position. Unless he has changed a lot, he’ll be looking for a job before Christmas.

    It’s pretty clear to me that the problem lies with his wife. She was very successful as a project manager with a software firm before deciding to stay home with their young children. She seems to have pushed her personal ambitions onto her husband without looking hard at his strengths and weaknesses. After all, not everyone is cut out to be a manager or entrepreneur.

    Be sure that you consider family issues when looking to rehire former employees.

    I wouldn’t consider this employee for rehire (again.) His wife won’t learn from this experience.

  2. Michael D. Haberman, SPHR says

    Frustrated Manager:
    You are correct in that there are many factors that need to be considered. However, in today’s age, the fact that you got four years worth of productive work out of this guy before he moved again should make you happy. If he was not being productive then shame on you.

    You say you would not hire this guy again? Why? If you were going to get another 4 to 5 years of good work for a “cheap” hire why not? Are you looking at this through hurt feelings? There is no guarantee that the person you hire to replace him will stay any longer and they will have a longer learning curve.


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