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Researchers Scrutinize Whether “Boomerang” Hires Live Up to Perceived Benefits

  • Researchers take a look at employment data to see if rehiring workers results in perceived benefits such as less risk and lower training costs
  • Study determines that performance of “boomerang” employees does not differ significantly from their peers, and that chances of turnover are higher
  • Rehiring former employees can still be a good strategy for employers who were satisfied with their initial performance or seeking short-term gains

Leaving a job may be a bittersweet experience for employees, who have often grown close to their co-workers and gained an appreciation for their work. But they can be called away for a variety of reasons, from pursuing another job opportunity to taking time off to focus on their family.

Nevertheless, it can still be an awkward experience for employers to encounter a previous employee among the applications for a listed job. There has long been a stigma that employees who quit are less reliable or even disloyal to a company. But with a more mobile workforce and a tighter labor market, “boomerang” employees are more likely to get consideration.

A team of researchers recently looked at the performance of rehired employees and published their results in the Harvard Business Journal. They relied on eight years of data on more than 30,000 employees to develop their findings.

The researchers sought to determine if boomerang employees’ performance differs significantly upon their return from more traditional hires, namely first-time hires from outside the company or internal promotions. They also wanted to gauge the accuracy of the perceived benefits of rehiring a former employee, including lower risk since an employer is already familiar with their performance and lower training costs.

The study found that while a boomerang employee’s short-term performance tended to exceed that of  first-time hires or promoted employees, their performance essentially remained the same. There was also a greater likelihood of turnover, with boomerang employees twice as likely as internally promoted workers to leave; those who left the company tended to do so for reasons similar to their initial departure.

While the researchers determined that boomerang employees did not offer any major advantages over new hires or promotions, they said it can still be a good decision to bring these workers back on board if the employer was satisfied with their original work. The study says the perceptions of greater predictability and lower training costs also hold true.

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