Boomerang Employees: Returning with New Skills and Experiences

In 2018, Lien Ceulemans left Salesforce for a new job at Google in London. She returned to the cloud software group, becoming a boomerang employee, last year. “People I worked with contacted me when a role presented itself.”

His return was, in part, personal. She wanted a job in Brussels, to be close to her family. Professionally, it was a step forward, becoming a national leader at a time when the company is forging new ways of working in the wake of the pandemic.

Returning to a former employer had its advantages. Ceulemans already knew the culture. “If you already know the organization, it’s easier to get into it.” Over the past two years, many newcomers have had to deal with remote interviews, onboarding and working from home, which has made it particularly difficult to master their new organizations.

Anxious to fill labor shortages, employers have experimented with hiring parties, hiring bonuses, wage increases and benefits. Now some are considering former employees. According to LinkedInthe professional social network, 4.5% of new recruits on its platform were boomerangs last year compared to 3.9% in 2019. a former employer.

For the employer, there can be a financial windfall in hiring boomerangs, reducing recruitment and training costs, and increasing productivity. A study by Cornell University compared the work experiences of just over 2,000 boomerangs and nearly 11,000 new hires at a large US-based healthcare organization. He found that boomerangs outperformed new hires, particularly in roles that involved “relatively high levels of administrative coordination, such as project manager and purchasing officer that encompass planning, goal setting, planning and the application of organizational routines and rules”. And also in jobs that focus on cooperation with others within the company.

Caroline Gaffney, vice president of product and chief of staff to the chief executive of LinkedIn, who returned to the company four years ago after a stint at Instagram, would encourage people “in this time of great shake-up to think about businesses in which you worked”. for the past”.

Mike Ettling, managing director of Unit4, a cloud-based software company, says: “You’ve always been able to arbitrate talent, but now you have this phenomenon. [the Great Resignation] goes everywhere, the greatest technique to find [recruits] in another pond is gone. This means that employers will have to experiment.

Alumni Network

Alumni are increasingly important to recruiters, says Ettling. This could mean changing the way an employer frames staff departures. Rather than saying goodbye, he offers to welcome the newcomers into the network of graduates, a principle he practices himself. “Stop thinking it’s negative – they could potentially come back to us. Let’s see that as a positive. This mindset also changes the tone of exit interviews.” Too many people come into the conversation with a rescue approach . I will do better [talk] on how we can help you in the next role.

Maral Kazanjian, director of human resources at Moody’s, the rating agency, and herself a recent boomerang, says she has seen “organizations dealing [departing employees] as disloyal”. Andrea Legnani, global head of alumni relations at Citi, detects a shift in the company’s attitude toward recently departed staff. “Employers view graduates as an opportunity rather than a betrayal.” In the past, he says, alumni “were mostly retirees, now companies see alumni as employees of tomorrow.” The company estimates that around 10% of its current global workforce are boomerangs.

Caroline Gaffney, Vice President of Product and Chief of Staff to the Managing Director of LinkedIn, outside her home in Hillsborough, California

Caroline Gaffney, VP of Product and Chief of Staff to the Managing Director of LinkedIn, would encourage people ‘in this time of great reshuffle to think about the companies you’ve worked for in the past’ © Jason Henry/FT

An alumni network can help employers learn how to target boomerangs. Legnani says he learned that Citi employees in Africa were attracted to start-ups. “We were able to write a specific letter to [this population], saying there are jobs for tech workers. He also adds that alumni networks can change the way employees laid off as a result of a merger, for example, or a cost-cutting, feel about their former employer. They can feel rejected, he says, and an alumni network can provide a “different voice.”

However, employers should be aware that hiring from a historical talent pool could thwart efforts to diversify the workforce. Advocates of alumni networks argue that formalizing such structures would overcome informal networks of patronage.

Join the company

Nisha Vasan left The Walt Disney Company to join WeWork in March 2020 and joined the film and entertainment group earlier this year after a 12-month stint elsewhere. She says “it’s a joy to get on board when you already know some people”. This was especially the case after joining two organizations during the pandemic. “This is my third remote onboarding. The hardest part of being a new hire is building relationships. Familiarity is comforting, [knowing] the organizational structure, the way the teams work, made it transparent. However, the group she returned to is not exactly the one she left. “There have been a lot of changes in the company. You are not starting from scratch. You don’t start at 10, but somewhere [in between].”

Kazanjian at Moody’s says a boomerang should have “a curiosity about what [the organisation] it’s like today”.

Ettling says that in growing companies, boomerangs may find the company to be very different from the one they left. “The worst thing you can do is wait [a boomerang] Be well. I often receive e-mails from [them] saying, “Wow, the business is so different”.

While the job Gaffney held at Instagram was in an area she had previously worked in — product — the one she returned to on LinkedIn involved a steep learning curve. “I tried to come back with an open mind. I spent the first three to six months gathering information, understanding how the organization worked [rather than my] historical assumptions.

Emma Sinclair, Managing Director of EnterpriseAlumni, points out that “it’s not just people who grow [but] organizations too – coming back to something you know with new skills and experience is compelling”.

Returning employees are likely to have goodwill towards their employer, usually leaving for personal reasons (residence or family responsibilities) or a compelling job offer.

External experience

Ettling, whose Unit4 workforce numbers around 2,800, says he values ​​employees with experience in both large corporations and start-ups. “Small businesses give you [the ability to be] moving faster and more agile. You have the underdog moves. I always tell people when they’re thinking about their careers to try to get both.

While research indicates that boomerangs could outperform external hires, Alison Dachner, assistant professor of management at the Boler School of Business, John Carroll University, says that for long-term performance benefits, internal hires could prove more effective than convincing former employees to come back — boomerangs are likely for negotiating higher salaries and better job descriptions. Managers need to be aware of the impact of returning well-paid employees on the morale of their teams. This may send a signal that the only way to increase wages is to leave the company.

Dachner does not recommend that employers “hoard talent” but rather “improve ease of movement and role transitions.” Thus, graduates should be seen as “part of overall talent management which includes support for internal mobility”. Salesforce, for example, has a dedicated internal recruiting team to help employees find new opportunities within the company. Erin Makarius, an associate professor of management at the University of Akron in Ohio, says companies should focus more on promotions from within, having regular coaching or career interviews. “How often do employers say, ‘where do you want to go next?'”

Gaffney says LinkedIn executive chairman Jeff Weiner has a “next play” philosophy, where employees are encouraged to plan their next steps, including building careers that could include a move outside of the company. business. When she initially thought about leaving the group, the managers and mentors were “very supportive. It’s part of our culture to have open conversations,” including identifying their next opportunity and discussing how to reach it, including externally.

New York-based Amer Jan, a mortgage executive, is happy to have returned to Citi after 18 years. One aspect he noticed that differs from his previous stint is the confidence that comes with age. “If I have an idea, I’ll call people, I don’t care how long they’ve been.”

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