On LeBron James and Boomerang Employees

By Jon Hyman

Jun. 21, 2016

LeBron James is the world’s greatest boomerang employee. He left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, returned in 2014, and delivered The Land our promised title on June 19.
What is a boomerang employee? It’s one that leaves an organization and returns to that same employer at a later date.

According to a recent study conducted by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and, more employers are embracing boomerang employees.

  • Nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees – even if the employee left in good standing – but 76 percent say they are now hiring boomerang employees.
  • In the past five years, 85 percent of HR professionals say they have received job applications from former employees, and 40 percent say their organization hired about half of those former employees who applied.
If the prevalence of boomerang employees is increasing, should they have a role in your organization? Should you have a policy or practice that favors the hiring of boomerang employees?
Consider the following benefits boomerangs offer your organization?
  1. High performers are high performers, and you should not discount one who sought greener pastures and later saw the error in his or her ways. It is 20th-century thinking to perceive these employees as disloyal and unworthy of consideration for rehire.
  2. Your familiarity with the employee eliminates the biggest risk in hiring, the unknown. But, don’t short-change the interview process. Make sure the candidate remains a good fit and is returning for the right reasons.
  3. Re-hiring a former employee will lessen your costs in on-boarding and training. He or she is already familiar with your business, and its culture, values, key players, and organizational structure. Thus, the re-hire is ready to hit the ground running, instead of investing in months of ramp-up and learning.
  4. When a top performer leaves, what do your other employees think? Why did this happen? What’s next? Is my job at risk? When that employee returns, it often has a calming and morale boosting effect.
  5. What is your strategy to engage former employees? If you want to consider re-hiring former employees, you have to keep them engaged, and you cannot have that engagement with an organizational alumni strategy.
Or, look at this way. If LeBron can deliver Cleveland its first title in 52 years, do you need to consider any other argument in favor of boomerang employees?


Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

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