13 Critical Steps for Making High-Quality “Boomerang” Hires

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May 22, 2014

Second of two parts.

Yesterday, I told you about why “boomerang rehires” — former top-performing employees who you rehire after an absence of a few years — are such an important sources of quality hires (See Want a Great Source of Quality Hires? You Need a “Boomerang” Program.)

But, if you want to take advantage of a boomerang program, there are some important action steps you need to consider:

  1. Make a strong business case  Work with the CFO’s office to quantify the dollar impact of having back former employees who perform at XX percent above the average.
  2. Create a great slogan – Create a compelling slogan like: “It’s time to come home,’ Once a teammate, always a teammate,” “Don’t you frequently think back to how great it was,” or “HP alumni … phone home.
  3. Tag the best when they quit – As part of the offboarding processwork with hiring managers to identify those top performers who they would like to eventually hire back. Use post-exit (delayed) interviews to find out any negative factors that drove them away. Also go back at least two years to identify those individuals in key jobs who should be put on the boomerang target list.
  4. Search LinkedIn – When someone leaves who you would like to return, find their LinkedIn profile and have a recruiter or former team member begin a “customer-like” relationship with them for a period of up to three years. If you notice that their LinkedIn profile is being updated, or something negative has happened at their new firm, contact them immediately and ask them to consider returning. Of course use other social media to maintain relationships with these targeted alumni.
  5. Take advantage of reference calls as warning devices – When a “desirable” former top employee decides to consider a new job, they will invariably provide their former manager as a reference. If you properly prepare the HR reference checking staff and your managers, you can use those job reference calls as an alert that the former employee is currently in the job market. You might have to move quickly but you can then contact the former employee and ask them if they would consider returning to your firm. It is your choice whether you let them know how you found out that they were seeking a job.
  6. Create a dedicated corporate boomerang alumni group  The very best boomerang programs build an alumni group. You can use Facebook or operate separately as a talent community would. Keep those who are invited to join interested by including boomerang-related features covering forums, FAQs, blogs, learning wikis, podcasts, videos, and an alumni directory that can be sorted by name, location, and interests. Also prioritize your targeted alumni based on who you would like back, who could fit into a key job, and who is most likely to want to return.
  7. Be inclusive in your definition of alumni – In traditional programs, participants were exclusively full-time employees who voluntarily left. However, the best programs realize that there are a wide range of individuals including those who were laid off, and retirees, as well as former part-timers, contractors, and interns.
  8. Develop an onboarding boomerang component – Firms that want to excel begin educating employees during orientation about the firm’s expectation that this be a “lifelong” relationship. They build on that expectation by involving current employees with alumni. And should they leave the firm they participate in a “welcome to our alumni group interview” that welcomes them to the next phase of their relationship with the firm.
  9. Consider offering a “no-fault” return policy – consider offering top individuals who left the option to return within two years without losing their seniority (as Apple once did). This incentive can serve to further convince alumni to return if they are unhappy at their new company.
  10. Target a 10 percent or greater rehire rate  the very best programs produce exceptional results, which means that more than 10 percent of all hires should be boomerangs.
  11. Use metrics to continually improve – Tag boomerang rehires and use metrics to track their on-the-job performance, time to productivity and retention rates. Convert each of those into their dollar impact on revenue to help support further boomerang hiring.
  12. Assign a dedicated manager – The best firms have a dedicated staff person that allows for continuity and allows the firm’s program to become a competitive advantage. Obviously reward them if they produce excellent results. Also use their former employee friends to maintain relationships and to convince them to return.
  13. Identify and proactively improve the individual’s reasons for leaving  Rather than paying lip service to the underlying causes that convinced some of the top employees to leave, the best programs confront these issues head on. By postponing exit interviews until well after separation, firms can identify the “real causes” of turnover and develop a formal process to fix the identified problems in order minimize future turnover and remove obstacles that may inhibit former employees from returning.

Final thoughts

As corporate turnover rates continue to increase (they went up 45 percent last year) the number of individuals who voluntarily quit will obviously increase. Unfortunately, many firms still treat those who voluntarily left as “disloyal untouchables.”

More firms would realize the value of this departing resource if they systematically measured the on-the-job performance improvement percentage of new hires (the quality of hire) from each source.

And unfortunately, even fewer firms take the time to convert that percentage of performance improvement into its dollar impact on corporate revenue.