American basketballer LeBron James is joining the "boomerang employee" club by going home to Cleveland after two years with the Miami Heat and sports teams aren't the only ones looking at the pros and cons of employees who keep coming back.
The boomerang employee concept has had renewed focus in the last few years as some firms such as EY
focus on getting their old team back together after they’ve upskilled with other employers.
So what are the high points and pitfalls of bringing back an old teammate?
HR consultant Jared Brooks told HRM the key to successful rehiring is to focus on what “added value” the employee brings.
“If they’re no better than someone new, or an internal employee you could train, then there’s not point bringing them back,” he said. “But if they’ve upskilled in the last few years, or they can bring fresh ideas from a different organisation or industry then they’re likely to improve the team or product.”
Pro: They already understand the company and the culture
It can be difficult to integrate someone into your organisation’s specific culture and work style, but the boomerang employee already knows the culture and was a good fit before. You can skip a lot of the onboarding when your new hire is really an old hire.
Con: There’s a reason they left in the first place
Whether they left voluntarily for a better opportunity, or were laid off during downsizing, the reason they left before is relevant to how while they settle in and how well they perform long-term.
Pro: Rehiring former employees costs less
Research shows hiring from the talent pool of former employees can be up to 60% cheaper than going through the whole process to hire a new employee, and re-hires are usually easier to retain, long term, than other hires.
Con: Old grievances can resurface
If the employee was laid off or left because of issues with a specific manager these problems could come back to haunt the hiring manager. No matter what advanced skills or relevant experience the employee brings, personal issues could negatively affect performance and productivity.
Pro: You know what you’re getting
You know that this employee will always meet deadlines, answers emails promptly and has a great rapport with clients. They might also never return calls and take long lunches, but their results balance out those bad habits.
Con: You might not be getting what you think you are
How long has the employee been away? Over the years priorities can change, and your memory of an employee might be rose-tinted. Hiring someone you remember as hard-working and a great team member only to discover they’re not interested in putting in any discretionary effort could be very disappointing – especially if you’ve been talking them up to the rest of the team.
Sports stars are notorious for moving between teams and sometimes codes - rugby union/rugby league player Sonny Bill Williams, for example - and they're often rehired by their former clubs.