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Bringing Workers Back: A Winning Alumni Strategy

We know that the ‘Great Resignation’ saw swathes of people leave the job market entirely: but many who have left are potentially ready to come back. According to McKinsey, the ‘relaxers’ category is one to watch: “Comprising both early retirees and natural-age retirees who still have many productive years left, they represent the largest segment of the latent workforce… After a surge in retirement during the early months of the pandemic, the rate of retired workers returning to the job market has slowly been increasing.”

In a McKinsey survey of almost 600 workers who voluntarily left a job without another in hand, 44 percent said that they have little to no interest in returning to traditional jobs in the next six months. In the fourth edition of the Beamery Talent Index, 51% of people said they planned to leave their job in the next 12 months.

But this survey also revealed that 54% of people who had left a company, due to feeling unhappy or unfulfilled, later regretted doing so. LinkedIn data suggests that 4.5% of new hires (among companies on LinkedIn) were “boomerang” workers in 2021, compared to 3.9% in 2019.

“I think we do expect to have our healthy share of boomerangs. So if somebody does, in fact, take that moment to leave, and providing that I think there was a really good match around the company’s expectations and what they were doing, we do expect them to come back to their favorite destination in due course... which often happens.” - Stephen Lochhead, Expedia Group

The point is, there is a huge chance that your people leave but want to come back. Keeping a note of your ‘leavers’, understanding their reasons for leaving, and being able to monitor their skills and experience as it changes in the future, is a useful component of your Talent Lifecycle Management strategies.

Benefits of hiring alumni

We know that people’s reasons for leaving a company are often complicated. While many will do so due to financial reasons, there are also things like managers, company structures, and opportunities for progression that may change over time. Changes within the business, as well as changes to someone’s personal circumstances, may make it appealing for employees to return. But what makes it useful for employers?

Clearly, someone who has worked with you before brings institutional knowledge, industry experience and relevant skills, and will likely get up to speed – even in a different role – quicker than an external hire. In fact, as we know from the benefits of internal mobility programs, moving departments within a business can deepen bonds and create a virtuous circle of knowledge development, beyond the one employee who moved.

It won’t always be suitable, but a former employee can be used to fill your hiring requirements quickly and inexpensively, and needs less in the way of onboarding when they arrive back.


Of course, it’s not plain sailing when it comes to re-hiring alumni. You will want to address the following questions:

  • Do you keep a note of people who leave, as part of your Talent CRM? Is the data on your alumni kept up to date, taking into account new roles and experiences they’ve had in the meantime?
  • Why did they leave in the first place? Have their concerns been addressed?
  • Are they up to date with what’s going on in your company/industry, and are you meeting their training needs?
  • Are you giving alumni training opportunities in general, to ensure they continue to feel valued at your company? Can they see a career path?

Making the experience seamless

If you want to make it easy to bring people back into your business, you need to keep alumni information in your talent CRM. Maintain employee (skills) data in a centralized place, and hold on to that data when people leave. Consider building a branded hub and network for your former employees, as a way to keep them connected to your organization and increase your chances of being able to hire them again in the future.

Keep members of your alumni network ‘warm’ by sharing updates about the company – news, views or open roles – and consider hosting targeted events based on skills, departments or ERG interest.

Give them a channel to make referrals. When former employees refer candidates with the right skills to open roles at your organization, they are highly likely to be a good cultural fit.

Make sure skills data is kept dynamically updated – even beyond your company. Track the career development of former employees, and use a unified skills language to keep your database fresh and relevant.

As well as alumni this could include current employees, people in your talent pools (potential candidates you’ve sourced from linkedin etc) and people who have applied in the past/come close (silver medallists)... The idea is to create a global talent pool that gives you more options when it comes to finding the ideal candidate, with skills to match the role or opportunity.

Learn more about Alumni Management as part of a holistic approach to managing the talent lifecycle.