Want a Great Source of Quality Hires? You Need a “Boomerang” Program

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May 21, 2014

First of two parts

Other than referrals from your top-performing employees, it’s hard to find a corporate recruiting source with a higher quality of hire (i.e. on-the-job performance) and a higher ROI than “boomerang” rehiring programs.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a “boomerang rehire” is a former top-performing employee who you rehire after an absence of a few years. I rank them No. 2 in new hire quality and they also produce significant volume of hires. CareerXroads ranks them N0. 6 in volume, after college hires..

Although “boomerang” programs have been around for years. In the past they were a bit of a burden because if you wanted to find and keep in touch with your former top-performing employees, you had to put together and maintain your own corporate alumni group.

LinkedIn makes this easy

Fortunately today with the tremendous growth of LinkedIn, you can now easily find out where any former employee works. That makes this source among the easiest to find candidates. Updating their LinkedIn profile can also signal to you that they are probably once again considering a move to their next firm, which provides you with an opportunity to reach out to them and ask them to consider returning.

Other firms now build a simple online talent community group and maintain relationships through text or e-mail. The benchmark firms in boomerang rehiring programs include Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Booz Allen, Bain, and DaVita, which has reached as high as 16 percent of its hires coming from its impressive “you are always welcome here” boomerang program.

Referrals from your high-performing employees produce high-quality hires because top performers continually interact with the very best talent and they wouldn’t think of referring anyone who doesn’t meet their high standards.

Why “boomerangs” are such high-quality hires

Boomerang rehires have a high ROI because they bring in high performers, and because cost wise, candidates are cheap to find, assess, and sell. Boomerang rehire programs produce high-quality rehires for a variety of reasons, including:

  • You get proven top performers – If you focus your boomerang effort and target only individuals who were consistent top performers over the years, your only risk is that somehow they became a slacker after leaving your firm.
  • You fill key positions – If you focus your boomerang effort and target only those alumni who can now fit into your key high-priority jobs, you ensure a higher impact than if you sought boomerangs for every job.
  • A proven track record – Because you have their performance records, you only target individuals for rehire who excelled in output, quality, innovation, and attendance.
  • You know their skills – Because they are former employees with years of performance appraisals and perhaps leadership assessment, you know in advance pretty much what skills and competencies you are obtaining when you rehire them.
  • A low new-hire failure rate – Unlike most new hires, boomerangs have an almost zero chance of complete failure (and having to release them) because they have already successfully adapted to your culture and you already know their performance capabilities and their ability to produce results (especially if they quit your firm recently)
  • They are likely to stay – turnover rates among boomerangs are almost always extremely low because they have already seen and experienced the so-called “greener grass” at another firm and now they are ready to “come home.”
  • They fit your culture – obviously you target boomerangs who were the perfect fit for your culture as it is today. And because you know the individual well, it is unlikely that you will rehire someone who is an improper fit.
  • They get up to speed quickly – because they already know your organization and its culture, they are likely to get up to speed and reach their minimum expected productivity levels faster with little onboarding and coaching. Traditional new hires experienced a longer ramp-up time because they have to learn an entirely new set of politics, culture, and processes as well as develop new relationships.
  • A fast hire – if you have an immediate need, boomerangs offer an opportunity to acquire a top person quickly. This is because you know them and they already know you, and as a result, the search, assessment, and decision-making takes little time.
  • They may also bring some new customers – boomerangs who have built up a new customer base while they are away may bring some of those customers and relationships with them when they are rehired.

More reasons for boomerang rehires

In addition to their on-the-job performance, there are numerous additional reasons why you should develop a formal effort to re-recruit top employees who left your firm. Some of them include:

  • They can serve as “brown-grassers” in retention efforts — Boomerangs will likely stay for long time after seeing the “color of the grass” on the other side. But in addition, they are almost always willing to help in out in retention by telling negative stories to specific employees about their less-than-pleasant experiences at the firm that the employee may be considering.
  • They can provide competitive intelligence — Because boomerangs have worked at competitive firms, they can provide competitive intelligence, new ideas, best practices, and a fresh perspective from their previous firms.
  • They may provide additional rehires — Because former employees often stay in touch, they may encourage other corporate alumni to return with them when they come, especially after the message spreads that you are “welcoming back” those who left.
  • Employer brand value may be increased — If even a few key people return, the message may spread on social media that your firm is on an upswing, and as a result the boomerang program may help you strengthen your employer brand image.
  • A targeted effort may increase diversity – If you target former employees who are diverse, you may be able to improve your diversity among your employees and to increase diversity thinking.
  • Value can be added even if they don’t return – Even if you’re recruiting is unsuccessful, reaching out to these alumni may strengthen the relationship, which could lead to both recruiting and new business referrals.

Tomorrow: 13 Steps For Recruiting High-Quality Boomerangs