Breakups are hard. Real hard. And they’re especially hard when you don’t want to breakup. And yet, sometimes in business good employees leave for other opportunities. This hurts both financially and in less quantitative ways (morale, culture, etc.). Chances are you’ve gone through some difficult work breakups. You might even be thinking of a specific employee you wish would come back.
But what if I told you that they can come back? About 40 percent of employees are open to “boomeranging” back to former employers (even though only 15 percent actually have). If you play your cards right, you can get some of your favorite old employees to return. Here are five effective ways to turn great former employees into boomerang employees.
1. Make exit interview an enjoyable experience. Be kind and show you value their opinions. Tell them all the things you valued about them during their time in the organization. Ask for their heartfelt thoughts on why they are leaving, what you could have done differently, and what would compel them to reconsider their decisions. Then take good notes of what they have to say (more on this later). When the interview concludes, express sincere gratitude for their work and don’t be afraid to show that you are sad they’re leaving.
2. Do something special at their departure. Celebrate the employees when they depart. You can send a heartfelt email to the company or team to thank the employee for their work, have a “goodbye” lunch, offer a parting gift, dedicate a song to them, whatever. Just make sure to offer a sincere, personal farewell that fits their personality. On a personal note, they’ll appreciate you and the organization for caring about them.
3. Offer a recommendation on LinkedIn. By offering to make (and then write) a LinkedIn recommendation, you are linking yourself to former employees in a meaningful way. Really, you’re firmly putting your foot in the door of their career. They’ll know that you’re willing to sing their praises to other future employers and that you won’t hold hard feelings. This will endear you to them and earn their continued trust.
4. Stay connected. Check in frequently to former employee’s LinkedIn activity (and other social networks), like their posts, leave thoughtful comments. If you have a more personal relationship, check in from time to time. Do whatever you can to keep that connection intact. In other words, be a friend. You’ll be surprised how much they might tell you now that you’re no longer part of the same organization. This intel can help both of you understand more about what went wrong while they were with you, and it will give you ideas on how to win them back. Also, by staying connected, you’ll know when they’re ready for a new job, and you’ll be able to casually gauge their interest in rejoining your ranks.
5. Turn references in your favor. This is where things get good. Since you’ve kept in contact, you’ve sung their praises—even gave them recommendations—and stayed in their good graces, former employees will use you as a reference. When you get a call from the companies they are applying to work for, take advantage of the situation. They’re apparently looking for a new job, which probably means they don’t love their current situation. The timing may be perfect to bring them back.
Finally, call your former colleague to inform them that you spoke with their prospective employers. Refer back to the notes from their exit interview and everything else you’ve learned since their departure. Talk about all the things that have changed since they left, and focus on the positive changes. Refer to their own words, so they know you’re serious, then ask the big question: Are they open to returning to your organization?
And who knows, they just might be.