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Jul 29, 2014

When top talent leaves for a hotter company, managers and leaders often assume that’s the last they’ll see them.

But, just like LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, years can pass and, all of a sudden, they are back.

Yes, rehiring an employee who once left, or a boomerang employee, can have a negative impact if not handled correctly.

Consider these four (4) tips for handling a boomerang employee:

1. Stay in touch

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when top talent leaves is letting egos get in the way.

Rather than keeping it professional, employers take the employee leaving far too personally and develop an attitude towards them. When egos are involved, relationships end on a rocky note, which can leave a bad taste in the employee’s mouth. Why would they want to come back to a broken relationship?

Rather than giving the cold shoulder, offer to be a reference for any future opportunities they may have. Reach out to them a couple of times a year to catch up, or keep them on the email list of company announcements.

It’s always a good idea to stay in touch because you never know who the next customer or client will come from.  

2. Rehiring

Boomerang employees that have been gone for a few months don’t necessarily have to be re-interviewed. Sometimes simply having a conversation with the leadership team will suffice.

However, for those that have been gone for more than a year, a formal interview process may be a good idea. Things can change after a year — staff, culture, processes, etc. —  and it’s important for them to understand.

The interview also enables the company to revisit the employee’s exit interview and run through their reasons for leaving in the first place. Don’t overlook any previous issues, because chances are if they felt it once, they can feel it again.

If anything, the rehiring process of a boomerang employee can be more intense than the hiring process for other candidates.

3. Preparing staff

As soon as the decision is made to rehire an employee, communicate it with staff immediately to avoid upsetting existing, loyal staff.

While allowing them to voice any hesitations, concerns, etc., it’s important to note that the decision is final, and to be transparent as to why it’s the right decision.

Work especially closely with the team the boomerang employee is returning to. At the end of the day, be open and honest because you can’t rebuild relationships based on secrets.

4. Onboarding process

There’s a fine line between keeping staff aware of an employee coming back and bringing too much attention to it.

If it’s been more than a year, the boomerang employee should go through the onboarding process as any new hire would.

Have them retrain if necessary, and be sure you’re over communicating with the returning employee. Set expectations that there won’t be special treatment and warn them that they may be approached with questions, etc.

At the end of the day, if there are any hesitations at any point in the process, slow it down or end it completely. Follow your gut, because unlike the NBA, there are no contracts to ensure they stay.