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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Boomerang hires can be an asset, time saver for businesses

Marla Pinkus, of Port Washington, takes advantage of

Marla Pinkus, of Port Washington, takes advantage of the Boot Camp at the Port Washington Library to hone her interview skills. Credit: Johnny Milano

As the economy improves, filling job vacancies can be challenging.

Because new talent may not be easy to find or make the right fit, companies may want to consider rehiring some of their former employees.

These boomerang employees can be a valuable asset, say experts.

"They already know what they're getting into," says Brad Harris, a University of Illinois labor and employment relations professor who has researched boomerang workers. "You avoid a lot of the stressful shock that newcomers encounter."

Plus they are generally more committed to the organization upon return, says Harris, who co-authored a piece in the journal Personnel Psychology entitled, "Gone Today but Here Tomorrow: Extending the Unfolding Model of Turnover to Consider Boomerang Employees."

"They'll think the grass is greener somewhere else," he says, but "find out it's not, so when they come back they're really committed to the organization." They may also come back with more skills and a wider network, he notes.

What to consider: Before you welcome former employees back with open arms, make sure they were good performers, says Harris.

"Consider how the employee originally left the organization," he notes. It may not have been job dissatisfaction but personal reasons (like pregnancy or a spouse's relocation) or a grand plan they had in mind (ie. using the job as a steppingstone).

Understand why they left: To understand motives, it pays to conduct thorough exit interviews when employees first leave, says Ann Marie Luckman, director of human resources at the law firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, PC in Uniondale, which has rehired at least half a dozen former employees, including a partner and associate paralegal.

That way you will recognize if the issue was something that could be overcome if they return, she notes. For instance, if an employee didn't like working with a particular manager and now will be working with that person again, that may not be a good fit, says Luckman.

Keep in touch: She recommends staying in touch with some of your better former employees by touching base with them periodically through LinkedIn or email.

"Perhaps there may be an opening down the line or their circumstances have changed," says Luckman, noting that all the firm's rehires have worked out positively.

The same is true for Lorraine Gregory Corp., a Farmingdale-based marketing communications company.

Several years back, the firm rehired an employee as a supervisor in the company's mailing shop.

"There was almost no learning curve," says company president Greg Demetriou. "It saved us time and money."

When hiring a former employee, he suggests asking, "Can you tell me specifically why you left and why you want to come back?"

Also consider how long an employee has been gone. If the time is lengthy, you may need a greater vetting process, says Christine Ippolito, a principal at Compass Workforce Solutions LLC, a Melville-based human resources consulting firm.

"You really need to understand -- is this employee current or is there a gap that needs to be addressed," Ippolito says.

One of her favorite questions to ask: "What is prompting you to look for a new career opportunity at this point in your life?" The answer shouldn't just be that he or she needs a job, she notes. There should be specific reasons.

Involve the hiring manager and some employees they may be working with in the process, she suggests. Let them have a dialogue.

"Make sure they sync up with whatever team or role they're coming back to," she says.

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