You spend ages sourcing and recruiting the perfect candidate, investing in their training and development, working closely with them for years, and just like that they tell you they are resigning. It is hard not to be angry, disappointed and panicked all at once.
You’ll find everything on the spectrum of how companies handle this, from marching the ‘deserter’ straight out of the building, to making them sit in a corner with some menial task until they leave, to checking all the “exit best practice” boxes only to totally ignore them after the P45 has been sent out.
I have seen very few companies continue to engage effectively with their alums after they leave, but this is starting to change, especially in organisations a with strong corporate culture. Companies like Amazon, Credit Suisse, or A.T. Kearney have built well-established Alumni networks over the years, and are perfectly open to rehiring “Boomerang” employees.
A Boomerang hire is an individual who is rehired by an organisation after having left for some time; Where they might have been rare in the past, recent research shows that these types of hires are on the rise now.
In a study by The Workforce Institute in 2015, 15% of respondents said they had gone back to work for a former employer, and nearly 40% said they would be open to boomeranging back.40% of employees say they would be open to going back to a former employer. Click To Tweet
That is an extremely valuable opportunity for every Talent Acquisition team. Beyond the added pool of great candidates that they constitute, former employees can unlock value on multiple levels for the company:
1) Reducing hiring risk
These previous employees are known quantities, and therefore less risky hires; they already understand your company and its culture and processes, and are likely to hit the ground running for a lower on-boarding cost.
Even better: they often bring newly acquired skills and perspective to the team, and have a positive impact on their colleagues: it does wonders for retention to see someone choose to return to the organisation after having experienced what the external market had to offer.
2) Leveraging former employees’ referrals network
Even if previous employees do not return to the company themselves, they can refer new talent. Most organisations have some form of employee referral program in place, but it’s almost always limited to current employees.
Managed in the right way, opening it up to include corporate alumni can vastly expand the network, and increase your chances of finding top talent. Former employees who left on positive terms and with whom you stay in touch are much more likely to encourage others to join your company.
3) Attracting and securing new hires
Showcasing what former employees have gone on to do is a powerful narrative for prospective candidates. Look at Google: Part of the strength of its Employer Brand is the number of alums who struck out to start successful tech companies after their time there.
To prospects, it means two things: that working at Google sets you up for entrepreneurial success, and that Google cares enough about former employees to keep in touch with them and showcase their experience.
4) Strengthening your employer brand
Social media, content platforms, and most importantly, review sites and communities like Glassdoor have made it extremely easy for former employees to describe in detail their professional experience.
Their comments are often perceived as being more honest and objective by prospective candidates, and so they have the potential to considerably boost, or totally destroy your company’s reputation. A handful of disgruntled former employees can wreck all your efforts in advertising jobs and building stunning Careers pages.
5) Maintaining a great customer experience
Virgin Media discovered a few years ago that rejected candidates were costing them $5 million annually. Imagine how much more damage badly managed former employees can do!
A bad exit experience can push an employee to stop using the company’s product and advise their circle to follow. Even worse- they might end up working for a client and being responsible of purchasing your company’s services. If the relationship was soured when they left, there is a strong chance they will take their contract somewhere else.
6) Gaining market knowledge and insight
Using data and insight gained from former employees can help properly understand why employees leave, where they go and who they join. That’s an invaluable source of information. It helps you address issues that weren’t on your radar previously and keeps your employees happy and your churn low.
Beyond the initial offboarding and exit interview information, some companies also leverage their alumni networks to gain valuable market intelligence and information on industry trends.
A few are even tapping into these networks to test new products or services or conduct market research amongst a network of informed individuals who aren’t afraid to give honest and constructive feedback.
7) Hiring former seasonal workers
Previous employees can also be seasonal or temporary workers, or interim contractors employed by your organisation previously. Staying in touch with them enables you to hire from a pool of pre-screened and trained individuals.
8) Staying cost-effective
For all the above benefits, establishing and maintaining a corporate alumni network and regular communication with previous employees requires relatively little investment. You already have the data and networks, so you don’t need the advertising and licence costs associated with sourcing new talent.
With the right technology, you can stay highly engaged with large numbers of alums, and maintain personalized communication at scale to stay at the top of their mind.
Former employees shouldn’t leave your database when they leave the building; they constitute a big part of your employer footprint, and often want to have a relationship with their former place of work, if someone is willing to reach out to them.
So if you haven’t yet, open those past employee records and start sending emails. You never know who might be interested in coming back into the fold.