What should you do when an employee leaves. . . and later asks to return?
It may be an emotional instinct to react by rejecting their request to return.
But why? If you take it as a personal rejection when an employee leaves, you may be cutting off your own nose to spite your own face.
As these studies from the University of Illinois point out employees leaving then asking to return may just be offering you a big compliment to the way you do things. Perhaps they thought they'd be better off elsewhere only to find they were well off where they started. Not a bad message for other employees to hear if nothing else.
Organizations of all types are beginning to recognize and embrace the value of recruiting and welcoming back former or boomerang employees. From infantry soldiers to chief executives, accountants and professional basketball players, many organizations proactively recruit and rehire former employees as a way to offset high turnover costs the cost and risk of integrating new employees. A boomerang employee knows your system and probably will only need a little refresher training.
The return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers may have riveted the sports world and social media, but the phenomenon of "going home," whether to a geographic location or a former job, is not unique to professional athletes.
According to two studies co-written by a University of Illinois expert in organizational behavior and human resources management, organizations of all types are beginning to recognize and embrace the value of recruiting and welcoming back former employees.
Ideally, these so-called "boomerang employees" already understand the key components of the organization's work structure and culture, which makes them less risky hires than newcomers, says T. Brad Harris, a professor of labor and employment relations at Illinois.
"In addition to understanding the organizational culture, returning employees might also be more committed to the focal organization upon their return because, in essence, they've learned firsthand that the grass isn't always greener on the other side," Harris said.
In a paper published in Personnel Psychology, Harris and his co-authors -- Stacie Furst-Holloway of the University of Cincinnati, Benson Rosen of the University of North Carolina, and Abbie J. Shipp of Texas Christian University -- found that the experiences encountered by boomerang employees were distinct in a number of ways.
"After surveying and interviewing hundreds of employees, we were able to see that boomerang employees were more likely to originally leave an organization not because of dissatisfaction with the job, but because of some personal shock, such as a pregnancy, spousal relocation or an unexpected job offer," Harris said. "Somewhat unexpectedly, we also found that boomerang employees, compared to non-boomerang employees, typically had shorter original tenures with the focal organizations."
In a recent working paper, Harris and another set of co-researchers studied a sample of boomerang employees in the National Basketball Association.
The research found that re-employment performance was significantly predicted by the harmony of the original tenure, and their success during the time spent away from the focal organization and conditions of the return.
"Our latest research suggests that organizations should realize that not all boomerangs are created equal," Harris said. "When evaluating potential boomerang hires, organizations should first, and most obviously,
- consider their previous performance histories at the focal organization and at their most recent employer. "Second, organizations should
- be mindful that employees who originally left on good terms and of their own volition might be better suited for a return than those who left more acrimoniously. And finally,
- employees who are not gone for very long might possess more of the desirable attributes such as accurately recalling the organizational culture and understanding the social norms expected in it."
Past Performance Predicts Future Performance
Harris and his co-authors would not commit to specific predictions about James' return to Cleveland, noting that their statistical findings would be best applied to large groups rather than individual cases. However, one of the study's co-authors, Brian Swider of Georgia Tech's Scheller College of Business, said James' performance has always been exceptional, "which fits with our 'past performance predicts future performance' arguments."
"Although LeBron's original decision to voluntarily leave Cleveland was much derided, the fact that it was clearly of his own volition might work to Cleveland's favor," Swider said. "But our model doesn't exactly account for the extreme vitriol displayed by Cleveland fans or even the owner, which makes this case particularly interesting. Although many Heat fans probably wish LeBron's tenure in Miami was longer, the brevity of his stay on South Beach should have Cavalier fans smiling."
Story Source: Materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Business should embrace 'boomerang employees'." ScienceDaily. 14 July 2014