Not so long ago, leaving one company to pursue a new opportunity with another meant severing ties with the former employer for good. Resignations, even on the best of terms, were not unlike awkward breakups. And getting back together? Almost unheard of.

But now, many employers — and workers — are leaving the door open to potentially reconnecting with each other in the future. For companies trying to recruit talent in an intensively competitive market, rehiring former employees who left the organization on good terms can be an effective strategy. These are people who already know the company, are familiar with the corporate culture, and will likely require only a short onboarding runway to get back up to speed.

Many professionals like the idea of being able to work again for a former employer if they want or need to change course from their current path. According to a poll from Robert Half, 62% of professionals would consider returning to a previous employer for the right offer and another 12% said they’d go back “in a heartbeat.”

When a valued worker leaves

Of course, you never want to lose great employees, but turnover is inevitable — especially in a job seeker-friendly market. In fact, other research by our company finds that four in 10 workers (41%) plan to look for a new job in the first half of 2022.

“This is the first time in my 37-year staffing career that I’ve seen so much movement in the market and so many opportunities for workers at all levels,” says Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald. “With nearly half their workforce poised to make a move, companies should be highly concerned about retention in the coming months.”

By including boomerang hiring among your staffing strategies, you may have an opportunity to bring valued employees back into your organization one day. So, when a member of your team decides to move on — for another job, retirement, personal reasons, or something else — and they leave your organization on a positive note, make sure to:

Let them know goodbye doesn’t have to be forever

Tell a departing employee that you’d be happy to rehire them. You might say, “I wish you all the best, of course. But I want you to know that if this new opportunity doesn’t work out, I’d be glad to talk to you about the possibility of your coming back to work here.”

Offer to be a reference

Helping former employees to get ahead by attesting to their good performance is likely to leave a lasting impression on them. And even if they don’t rejoin your company someday, they may be inclined to refer other talented people they know to you.

Stay in touch

Online professional networking through sites like LinkedIn makes it so easy to keep in touch with former staff members. Reach out directly to them a few times a year by email, as well, just to check in and see how they’re doing, and to keep them in the loop on your firm’s news.

Boomerang hiring: When a former employee comes back

If a former employee asks to return to your workforce, don’t hesitate to contact his or her most recent employer to find out why the relationship did not work out, just as you would do with any other candidate. There may be more to the story than the professional deciding that he or she preferred being part of your organization.

The boomerang hiring process may require conducting a formal interview and onboarding, just as you would do for any new hire. Even if the worker has only been gone for a year or so, a lot may have changed in your organization since that person left — new processes, policies, people and objectives may all now be in place. That person also may need specialized training or upskilling if you’ve recently implemented new technology.

Be upfront with staff about boomerang hiring decisions

You’ll want to inform your other team members as soon as possible that you intend to invite a former employee back into the fold. Employees who have been loyal to your organization may resent that the business is so eager to rehire a staff member who left the company — and perhaps added more work to others’ plates, as a result.

Encourage your team to share any concerns they may have about the potential rehire. Also, take time to explain how bringing this particular worker back onto the team is likely to benefit the organization — and them. Also, if you plan to rehire an employee at a higher salary than they had before, be sure to confirm everyone on your team is earning appropriate compensation. (Robert Half’s Salary Guide can be a useful starting point for that assessment.)

While not every valued employee who leaves your organization will decide to come back, there’s a chance some will seriously consider it — especially if they know they are truly welcome and needed. So, be vigilant for boomerang hiring opportunities. They can give you an edge in recruiting in-demand (and proven) talent in today’s highly competitive hiring market.