Employers may be seeing some familiar faces at job interviews these days — because increasingly many candidates are former employees.

Boomerang employees — workers who left for another opportunity, only to return to their former employer later — are on the rise, as companies are becoming more enthusiastic about welcoming them back.

Nearly one-third (29%) of 1,000 American workers polled by staffing firm Spherion say they have “boomeranged” at least once in their career, and 41% say they would consider going back to a former workplace.

More than half (52%) of respondents said their company currently employs at least one boomerang worker.

And, when employees were asked for the top reason they would go back to work for a former employer if the pay was comparable, benefits and a better career path tied for the No. 1 response, found an earlier survey by The Workforce Institute at Kronos.

So what’s behind the trend? Familiarity, of course, is among the factors.

“As companies face more pressure to recruit and retain quality workers, potential boomerang employees give HR managers a wider pool of quality candidates to select from,” says Sandy Mazur, division president at Spherion Staffing Services.

“If a worker performed well in his previous tenure and was a good fit for the office culture, it’s likely a company would welcome that worker back,” Mazur says. “Often, companies believe former workers will return more capable of doing their job and [will] use the new skills they’ve learned in their time away to further overall business growth.”

An added bonus for hiring managers is that returning workers require less training and onboarding than a new employee. According to the survey, 37% of respondents believe their company favors hiring boomerang employees to save money on recruitment and training, while also minimizing risk.

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"Despite the growing number of boomerangers, some employees would rather that door remained closed."

For employees, workplace culture and perks play a big role in returning to a former employer.
“Improved salaries and job titles obviously speak loudly, but many respondents also indicated that previous companies offered better schedule flexibility and cultural fit,” Mazur says. “In certain instances, employees may not have wanted to leave their job or company, but outside factors, such as family needs or medical situations, dictated their departure. These workers are prime candidates to boomerang.”

Findings from Spherion are in line with another study last month from Accountemps, which found nearly all HR professionals — a whopping 98% — say they’re open to hiring former employees.

Overall, the rise of boomerang employees is significantly impacting “how workers, managers and HR professionals work through career transitions and maintain relationships,” Spherion says.

For one thing, Mazur says, “this growing desire to keep the door open has made both employers and employees more cautious about how they manage transitions and maintain relationships — and potentially made the ‘fiery exit’ less common.”

Similarly, employers need to consider why ex-employees left in the first place.

“If they resigned to pursue education, training or a role with more responsibility, having them back may bring new skills and ideas to the organization,” says Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps. “On the other hand, those who quit because of dissatisfaction with management, pay or the corporate culture may still be unhappy if they perceive nothing has changed while they were away.”

Despite the growing number of boomerangers, some employees would rather that door remained closed. The Spherion survey found that 35% workers would not consider going back to a former employer, feeling that such a move would either be a step back in their career (27%) or the company culture was not the right fit the first time (19%).

Mazur suggests that employers put more emphasis on exit interviews for departing employees, compiling detailed reports to learn why workers are heading elsewhere.

“This not only builds trust and rapport with the outgoing worker, but gives hiring managers and team leads a better indication of who might be open to coming back,” she says. “During this process, employers should be direct and let workers with whom they have a good relationship know that they would like to stay in touch and would welcome them back under the right circumstn

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