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Posted on Thursday, 30th June 2022 10:00
Submitted by ILX Marketing Team
How to navigate ‘The Great Comeback’ as workers return to previous employers

The Great Resignation saw people leaving their roles in their thousands, but now there’s a new trend sweeping the labour market – ‘The Great Comeback’!

Early data suggests that worker shortages are no longer actively getting worse – potentially spelling the end of the Great Resignation. However, there’s no doubt about it – businesses continue to struggle to recruit. Earlier this month, the number of vacancies rose to a record 1.3mn in the UK. But the tide could be turning on this too, as more and more companies are welcoming back former employees in a movement many have dubbed ‘boomerang employees’.

So, is rehiring as simple as ‘better the devil you know’, or are there other benefits to bringing back previous employees? We’re here to help you navigate the great comeback –

Are boomerang employees the right choice for employers?

Past hires returning says a lot about your organisation. Perhaps they never wanted to leave in the first place, but life just took them in that direction. Or maybe you’ve made substantial changes that are attracting old workers back. Either way, you should feel proud that your company has nurtured relationships strong enough that there is the potential to fill vacancies with former employees. Before now, leaving one’s employer has been considered a final farewell.

As a leader, you may be keen to have an experienced employee back in your team. Afterall, you have an existing connection, and they are knowledgeable about the business. However, it's not uncommon to feel sceptical about hiring past employees. Here are some key considerations to help you navigate re-employing:

Exit interviews

Arguably the most important step before taking back an old employee is to look over the notes from their exit interview. This will ensure you (and they) are not remembering their time at your company with rose-tinted glasses. Only by re-addressing why exactly they left in the first place can you explore whether enough has changed for that employee to confidently return.

You must look at what your shortcomings were and whether these have been handled, as well as how else the business has transformed since they left. In the fast–paced Covid era, a lot has likely changed even in a very short space of time! By completing this practice in risk-management, you can save yourself from the possibility of them leaving all over again.

Salary considerations

A returning employee can only assume you have been paying their replacement more. Whether that is the case or not, they are bound to demand an increase in salary. It is foolish to assume that any boomerang employee is going to accept the wage they were previously on. For one, some time has passed since they last worked at your organisation, plus the cost of living continues to rise, and beyond this, they will have gained advantageous skills and experience since you last worked together.

What’s more, it is common knowledge that onboarding is expensive. The average onboarding process takes around 24 days – a costly length of time, not to mention the cost and time put in by HR workers, team leads and other mentors to get the recruit up to scratch. When rehiring an employee, this can potentially be halved! So, while you may have to pay your returning staff member more, you can claw back savings in other ways!

Your employee may have cited salary as a reason for resigning, in which case, only an increase in pay is likely to lure them back. However, a new Pew Research Center survey has found that a lack of opportunities for advancement and poor work-life balance also topped the list for why workers have quit their jobs. Either way, your boomerang worker will likely be out to capitalise on their reemployment, maybe financially, or maybe in terms of perks, such as flexible working or professional development training.

Retraining your recruits

You must ensure that taking back an employee is still a step forward, both for you and for them. Many employees leave roles where they feel stagnant, so consider working with them to create a career path.

You’ll want to start by getting your returnee up to speed on what’s changed since they departed. It’s worth going over your onboarding checklist to re-onboard them and ensure nothing is missed. There is no reason why you shouldn’t treat a comeback with the same level of care as you would a new hire.

Foundations laid, you can now work on assurances so that your boomerang sticks around this time. Use this opportunity to re-evaluate their skill set, fill any gaps, and discover where they see their career progressing. Helping your returning employee to build a plan for continual learning and development will ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

Rounding up

Only you can answer whether a comeback employee is the right choice for you and your company. You could take your chances on fresh talent applying for the role, and wait for someone with the skills, knowledge and experience you require, or you could get onboard with the idea of hiring a previous employee. What we will say though, is that it pays to not burn bridges and to retain relationships with leavers. You never know when you might collaborate again in the future!