Rise of the boomerang hires

Former employees are queueing up to join the companies they quit, mainly for the predictable work environment on offer

Arundhati Ramanathan
Updated3 Apr 2016, 04:58 PM IST
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If you are looking to leave your company, it is best that you part amicably. For, it is very likely that you may find yourself returning to it in a few years.

In the last one year, firms like IBM India, Mindtree Ltd and Genpact have seen an increase of 30% in the number of boomerang hires, at a time when retention and attrition are chronic problems.

The human resources (HR) heads of these companies say that even though employees leave for seemingly greener pastures, they tend to return when they analyse factors such as work-life balance, or the predictability and familiarity that their previous employer offers.

Rehiring former employees is not an entirely new practice, but the number of boomerang employees seems to have grown.

For instance, Genpact saw an 11.7% increase in the number of rehires in 2014. In 2015, however, it had 543 rehires, a 33% increase.

“Forever expanding roles and responsibilities, a highly meritocratic ecosystem, employee-friendly policies and endless opportunities in terms of flexibility across functions and geographies are some of the important drivers for our people (to rejoin),” says Yogendra Jain, vice-president—recruitment, Genpact.

At Mindtree and IBM too, the number of rehires has doubled in the last year.

In fact, at Mindtree, one of every four lateral hires is now a rehire, and employee referrals have been a great platform to get them back into the system, says Pankaj Khanna, vice-president, talent acquisition.

Khanna has also noticed that some of the people who have returned are those who had quit to join emerging companies. Ten per cent of the employees who join Mindtree are from start-ups, new ventures and product companies.

“Many people who quit go to new ventures, but it’s not as hunky-dory as one is led to believe, as many companies overestimate the need for talent,” says Khanna.

This is especially true of online food-ordering service companies such as Tiny Owl, Food Panda and Zomato, which have laid off hundreds of people in the last few months.

In March 2015, staffing firm Randstad India surveyed 500 people in the 25-35 age group. The survey found that 52% of them would like to go back to the comfort of the familiar work environment that their earlier employers represented.

Why is a familiar work environment such a big draw?

There are three factors that make a person stick to a job, says Moorthy Uppaluri, chief executive officer, Randstad India—the job itself, the manager and the work environment.

“Employees quit companies nowadays even for a 10% salary hike. But when they find that there is lack of satisfaction with their new employer, they return to the organization they left because they are confident of the three factors,” says Uppaluri.

For companies, talent acquisition is a perennial struggle, and the boomerang hire comes with great advantages.

In fact, Jain says, everything about rehires is an advantage. They understand the culture well, and their learning cycle is considerably shorter than that of new joinees. And having been exposed to other organizations, they bring new ideas into existing processes and practices.

All this put together brings down the costs associated with hiring.

“Typically, a rehire costs 30-40% less when you look at the cost of hiring, as these employees can hit the ground running,” says Jain.

Dilpreet Singh, vice-president, HR, for IBM India and South Asia, says former employees return with a sense of belonging and familiarity, but, more importantly, a fresh industry perspective and greater self-confidence. “They also tend to be appreciative that you are willing to take them back. That can pay off in terms of their increased loyalty and productivity,” he adds.

Jain agrees. He finds that former employees rejoin a company after considerable thought. “So it is highly unlikely that they would leave us again, thus making it a win-win situation for both,” he says.

But the window of opportunity is relatively small—the advantage exists only if the employee has been away for less than three years. If it’s been longer, he or she is as good as a new employee, say HR heads. Rehires who have spent up to a year away are the most effective in terms of the knowledge they have gained in their last company, says Khanna.

Of course, there is one big disadvantage for employees—they cannot expect a considerable jump in salary when they return.

“Employees mostly come back to the same role they left. And we try to balance their compensation in such a way that the individual is given the same amount of salary as he or she would have received if they had stayed in our firm,” says Khanna.

Clearly, the advantages have begun outweighing this disadvantage.

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First Published:3 Apr 2016, 04:58 PM IST
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