Consider the following scenario: a recruiter works tirelessly to land top talent, coordinating rounds and rounds of interviews and finally making an impressive hire. The new hire, Jane, is a cultural hit, and her impact is immediate. Profits soar and the company’s Glassdoor rating skyrockets. Jane feels happy, valued and supported in her career path, but she also feels driven to pursue her next venture. So she spreads her proverbial wings, and the company that worked so hard to recruit her watches her fly away. For many managers, who dread the idea of hitting the reset button on the recruiting process, this scenario is a nightmare.
But after some time away from the nest, Jane wants to reinvest the invaluable experience she’s gained, and lessons she’s learned, in the place that fostered her career growth. So, Jane is rehired and all is right in the working world.
The nightmare has become the dream.
Jane is an example of a boomerang employee, an employee that starts with a company, leaves for a period of time, and then returns. Initial reactions to this concept are often skeptical: why encourage these employees to leave in the first place? Why re-hire them once they’ve left? But for an employer, one of the biggest marks of achievement is being the kind employees (past or present) fondly refer to other folks in their circles, and trust enough to boomerang back for more.
Creating an environment that welcomes boomerang employees requires substantial time and energy, but the reward largely outweighs the effort. Here are four ways to create a boomerang-friendly workplace:
One critical lesson from managers who’ve unlocked the secret to working with the millennial generation is that employees need to feel valued, and to see that their work is a crucial cog in the wheel. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey, 26 percent of participants confessed the desire to understand how their work is directly affecting the success of the company. As an employer, this information is the golden ticket to building trust from the top down. But it’s more than high fives and congratulatory emails; it’s about cultivating relationships. Every employee is motivated in unique ways — by bonuses, verbal praise or increased scope. Whether in white boarding sessions, or one-on-one meetings and conversations, managers should engage with each employee to identify their individual motivations and career goals, and begin building a rapport that lets them know they’ve been heard.
Now that goals have been identified and the foundation for a solid working relationship has been laid, it’s time to deliver on those growth promises. This transcends typical performance management. Employees from entry-level to middle-manager positions trust their employers with an essential part of their formative career experience, and employers who misuse that trust create a stifling environment where high performers go to die. Instead, the ultimate goal for any manager should be to create a launch pad for high performers, whether that’s inside the company or not.
Another lesson from millennial management is that killer culture means more than employee benefits and breakroom snacks. Rather, it includes unique programs and designated budgets for things like professional development, volunteerism and donation matching, along with a supportive management team and an atmosphere of fun and laughter, where the camaraderie extends beyond the office. Bottom line: be intentional in designing that killer culture so when Sunday evening rolls around, employees feel energized about going to work the next day.
It takes time, money and resources to build up a rock star employee, but developing career goals may lead that employee in a different direction.
And that direction may not include you.
Sometimes companies have the opportunity to create a new position, hiring the perfect candidate in a pseudo-managerial role with good intentions for growth. Call it talent zeal, recruitment fervor, or candidate gusto, but the unfortunate reality is, most companies don’t have the capacity to promote as quickly as those extraordinary new hires expect, or need. Those rock stars end up landing high-profile positions elsewhere. Though that’s great for them, it leaves their initial employers high and dry. As nice as it would be to have an expansive C-Suite or a company chock-full of whip-smart directors, it’s more important for managers and recruiters to have a plan in place to back up that candidate zeal. Hire impossibly talented folks, but understand their goals and be candid about what their realistic next steps look like. That open dialogue will enable an employer to thoughtfully plan a new hire’s career path — including growth opportunities within the company.
At the end of the day, whether for a new hire or a re-hire, employees deserve an experience that makes them firmly believe their managers are committed to leading them on a successful career trajectory. As the saying goes: if you love something, let it go; if they come back then they’re boomerang employees who felt valued, supported, and challenged.
Chelsea Woodhead serves as Chief People Officer at BuildASign.com where she oversees all things people – including the Human Resources, Communications, Philanthropy and Facilities departments.
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