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Sep 24, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Your employee left in search of bigger and better things, but now they’re back.

After pursuing other opportunities, they’re knocking on your door, looking for a job again. They have an excellent performance record and left on pretty good terms.

The big question: Do you take them back, or send them on their way?

More employers are taking back so-called “boomerang” employees, according to a study published in September by and the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

Almost half of HR professionals surveyed said their organization had a previous policy against rehiring former employees. But now, 76 percent claim they are more accepting of bringing back boomerang employees than they were in the past.

Hiring boomerang employees is now more accepted because there are situations when doing so brings serious benefits to employers. Just the same, rehiring employees can cause problems in the workplace.

Here are a few situations when hiring boomerang employees is a good move, and some circumstances in which to pass up former employees.

Consider rehiring when:

Finding the perfect candidate can be even more difficult in specialized and niche industries. If your company produces complex medical devices, you’re going to need a salesperson who can not only close a sale but who also who knows the equipment, is familiar with the conditions it treats, and understands the concerns of the care providers who will use it. You could spend months searching for a professional experienced in your niche, or consider hiring back an old employee.

Rehiring an old employee could save you the pain of hunting for that rare professional, with the blend of skills and knowledge you need in a specialized industry. Boomerang employees will require less training and onboarding time and will be able to start driving results from Day 1.

  • Teamwork is important — You’re not just looking for skills when scouting for a new employee — you’re looking for someone who will work well with the team and be a good fit for the company culture. Teamwork is an important part of the working environment, and in industries like sales and technology, it’s critical.

If a boomerang employee was a model team player, you may want to consider bringing them back on board. In fact, the study found that 33 percent of HR professionals surveyed said that familiarity with the organization’s culture was the best benefit of rehiring employees.

Boomerang employees already understand the ins and outs of your workplace environment and are familiar with your team. If they worked well with the team in the past, rehiring an employee can help boost office morale — your current team will be excited to work with their old pal again.

  • You lack leadership — If your former employee has strong, proven leadership skills, take them back, because a lack of leadership is a serious problem in the workplace.

Almost half of the companies surveyed for the Workplace Trends’ Global Workforce Leadership survey in February and March said that leadership is the hardest skill to find in employees. What’s more, among the 1,000 employees surveyed, only 36 percent said leadership is a strength in their organization.

Boomerang employees with leadership skills can not only better direct your team, they can also help grow and develop more leaders. Leaders with previous knowledge of your industry, company, and processes are in the perfect position to lead and train new employees, and to pass on their leadership wisdom to mid-level employees.

Consider passing on boomerang employees when:

  • Your team says no — You may think bringing back a boomerang employee is a great idea, but what does your team think?

Your former employee may have seemed like the perfect team player from outside the team, but there could have been issues behind the scenes your team never brought to your attention. Hiring back an employee your team doesn’t get along with could be catastrophic.

According to a 2014 report from Globoforce, 89 percent of employees surveyed said their relationships with their co-workers are important to their quality of life.

Before you make the final decision on a boomerang employee, sit your team down and have an open conversation about the employee in question. If your current employees express concerns or problems, take them seriously. If your team unanimously decides they don’t want to work with the employee again, don’t rehire them.

  • Nothing has changed — A former employee left for a reason, and unless things have changed, it’s unlikely that things will work out the second time around.

You obviously aren’t going to rehire employees who had serious problems in the workplace or who left on bad terms, but the little reasons employees leave can still have a huge impact on their job satisfaction.

If your former employee left because they were bored or looking for more growth and professional development, you might run into problems when you rehire them. Unless your boomerang employee is taking on a more advanced position and more responsibilities, they will be just as unhappy as they were the first time. If you haven’t changed the professional development opportunities offered, your former employee won’t be satisfied.

Before rehiring, consider why the employee left and whether or not things have changed enough to keep them happy.

  • It’s been a long while — The more time that passes the less valuable a boomerang employee becomes. If they worked for you in the last year or two, picking back up where they left off will be easy. They will still know most of your team, your clients and products, and how the office runs.

But if they worked for the company five years ago, their experience is less relevant. You may have a new team, new technology and systems, new clients, and new products and offerings. Although they were familiar with the organization at one point, they may require a similar amount of training and onboarding as a brand new employee.

Boomerang employees are becoming more accepted, and for good reason. In a tough talent market, they already possess the skills and experience you need.

Before bringing old employees back, however, consider the pros and cons to make the best decision for your team.

Have you ever rehired a former employee? Did it work out?

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.