UCL School of Management

21 March 2023

Boomerang employees – the double edged sword

Unusual photo collage aged mature male character trying to stop slow down turn back time giant painted clock arrow

New research from Professor Anthony Klotz and his co-authors shows that more than a quarter of all “new” hires in the past 36 months are “boomerang employees”, people who worked at that organisation previously. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Anthony explains the defensive and offensive strategies employers could use to capitalise on boomerang employers.

Anthony and his co-authors analysed over 3 million employees records to understand who is most likely to boomerang and why and when does it happen. Their research showed the boomerang phenomenon was a double-edged sword where it offered an opportunity for companies to recruit from their alumni pool but a potential risk of poor retention.

Their study showed this pattern was prevalent across multiple industries with retail and the manufacturing industry having the most boomerang employers, usually at managerial level, which fed into how some organisations were able to entice former employees back. Typically employees boomeranged within 13 months of starting their new job, with the study showing a common reason being new organisations not living up to their promises or the employee’s expectations, resulting in a perceived violation of their psychological contract.

The authors identified the best practises for organisations to recruit back their own boomerang employees and encourage would-be boomerangers to stay. One thing the authors suggest is that organisations should align the hiring process with the employees direct colleagues and line managers, this way incoming employees would have a realistic picture of the role and their team would be aware of their expectations from the get to.

For those trying to win back their boomerang employees Anthony and his co-authors suggest keeping a good relationship with exiting employees and checking in after the 12-month period - which they identified as the most critical point in the decision-making process - to pitch the rehire.

Read the full article

Last updated Monday, 3 April 2023