Getting a call from one’s previous employer is quite flattering. It makes one feel appreciated and needed. However, if one begins to contemplate returning to work for a previous employer, many doubts may arise in the mind making the decision a very difficult one.
Generally, “Employers very much embrace boomerang talent,” says Biswarup Goswami, CHRO, Gujarat Chemicals. They tend to welcome back employees who have been part of the achievers’ list in the organisation. After all, quality talent is rather scarce, and it takes a lot of time to build a new pool. Therefore, it is great to have the star performers back.
From the employees’ perspective, however, a decision to return may put them in a dilemma, drowning them in a sea of doubts and uncertainty. Why?
“With the old employees there’s always a history, a familiarity and a sense of belonging. Therefore, it’s always great to have them back.”
Thabitha David, CHRO, Sterling Holiday and Resorts
It all depends on what drove them to move on in the first place and how well they were treated or how well they performed in the new assignment. The reasons may vary.
Better opportunities: People move from one place to another seeking better opportunities or better exposure. They may be looking to get a raise, or more growth opportunities and or opportunities for personality development. They may even move on in search of a different organisational culture, or simply to break the monotony.
The new workplace remains an unknown space for the employees who decide to move on. They just take the leap into the unknown in the hope that the new organisation will align with their goals; that it would be a good fit for them. While some are lucky, others may not be so. They may realise that the new workplace is not what they expected it to be. They may find themselves to be total misfits in the new work environment. Such employees may consider moving back to their previous organisation if they know that they would be welcomed back.
“In some companies, there are policies that may limit these boomerang employees to a lower position, while other companies may take them back in the same position that they held previously. If the company rewards loyalty, someone new may get a senior position. This may create dissatisfaction and may not align with the future career goals of the boomerang employees.”
Biswarup Goswami, CHRO, Gujarat Chemicals
Compatibility: Some employees decide to leave an organisation because they are unable to get along with their colleagues or managers. After all, there are people with diverse mindsets and thought processes in a team, and it may not be possible for everyone to be cooperative and collaborative.
For instance, an employee may have had a difference of opinion with a manager because of which he or she may have decided to quit. If that problematic manager quits, the employee may be willing to return. “Since one is already familiar with the culture of the company, one’d be able to socialise well,” points out Ravi Mishra, Sr. VP-HR, advanced materials business, Aditya Birla Group.
Competency: Mishra also observes that it sometimes becomes challenging for new hires to adjust to new industries or develop competency in senior roles in a new organisation, and that too with a new team. However, with their old team and with familiar people around them, they may perform better and shoulder the same responsibilities more confidently. They may even end up serving as a catalyst in infusing the spirit of cooperation and collaboration across the whole team.
Familiarity: Thabitha David, CHRO, Sterling Holiday and Resorts says, “With the old employees there’s always a history, a familiarity and a sense of belonging. Therefore, it’s always great to have them back.”
“Big conglomerates such as the Aditya Birla Group are driven more by organisational ethos than culture, and as long as that ethos is preserved, the employees can adjust.”
Ravi Mishra, Sr. VP-HR, advanced materials business, Aditya Birla Group
According to her, returning employees bring in more stability and ensure more productivity, not only for themselves, but for the organisation as well. These boomerang employees already have a pre-acceptance mindset. They know what they’re doing, and hence, they feel confident that they can do even better this time.
Do boomerang employees have their disadvantages?
Of course, there are certain drawbacks too. “Familiarity sometimes breeds laziness,” cautions David. When the controls are low, people tend to become lazy.
Laziness: Having already worked with the organisation before, such boomerang employees are aware of the procedures and processes and hence this sometimes might bring a lazy eye into the organisation.
Attitude: Boomerang employees sure have a legacy and their own perspectives. They are used to doing things a certain way. They also come with an ‘I know it all’ attitude. This can sometimes prevent them from learning from their peers.
Career goals: Goswami points outs that in some companies, there are policies that may limit these boomerang employees to a lower position, while other companies may take them back in the same position that they held previously. If the company rewards loyalty, someone new may get a senior position. This may create dissatisfaction and may not align with the future career goals of the boomerang employees.
Changes: Also, if employees are returning to their former workplace after a long period of time, they may find the organisation changed or transformed beyond recognition. “The greater the gap between leaving and returning, the stronger would be the evolution,” says David. She shares, “The company I used to work in is today a whole new place— very different from what I used to know before. And it is not just the culture that has evolved, but even the performance and talent management, the pay and raises and the succession.
However, both Mishra and Goswami are of the opinion that being part of the talent pool, employees can and should be able to survive anything. By going back to their previous organisation, they’re giving their consent to the cultural diversity as well as the other changes that have taken place there over the years.
Mishra of Aditya Birla shares, “Big conglomerates such as the Aditya Birla Group are driven more by organisational ethos than culture, and as long as that ethos is preserved, the employees can adjust.”