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Recruiting Former Employees

The Boomerang Principle: Building loyalty among past, current and future employees

In this post, I’m going to share my story of how I’ve become a boomerang employee and what new loyalty is all about. This is worlds away from when I started here in Amsterdam at my first job, but you can read more about that here.

Eva, a Slovak girl with a passion for tech sourcing & recruiting, was hired around 3 years ago by LevelUp Ventures as a recruitment consultant to build teams for startups and scaleups.

At LevelUp Ventures I’ve been a 21st-century recruiter and always myself, quite the nerd, with a genuine passion for tech & booleans and a new era of recruiting: networking, social selling & branding, digital marketing and growth hacking.

I’ve met great people, who are amazing, energetic, creative, gorgeous & smart! I’ve met great candidates, many of them I can even call my friends now. All of those people and companies taught me a lot! I’ve never learned that fast and that much before. I felt comfortable, acknowledged, autonomous and always empowered by our mission to ‘enable growth’. LevelUp Ventures has taught me a lot.

After a year and a half at this high growth company, it was time for me to take the next step in my career. I decided to go to the in-house/corporate recruitment route. In-house corporate recruiting has also taught me a lot. It was challenging, fun and of course great. It was an interesting journey, from which

I’ve learnt a lot about myself:

  • Who I am as an expat living in a completely different country (living alone abroad is a completely new challenge of discovering what is a person capable of…)
  • Who I am as a woman, a daughter or a friend (“as life is happening to me I am becoming more mature and I like it, life is becoming easier”)
  • Who I am as a professional and where I want to be in the future. (I found my calling and what is really important for me at work)

It is this last point that I am going to address in particular in this post. Let me tell you what is important for me and what I value the most at work:

  • Innovation
  • Honesty
  • Grit
  • Teamwork
  • Fun

It might sound naive, but I’ve set these values as the “must-have” for the next company I work for. I’m a person who identifies herself with her work. And therefore I have decided to start searching for my utopia. Or at least as close as possible as I can get to it. Why?

I could see many tremendous professional successes around me. But I also saw how this can come at the cost of the personal and family life, and in the worst case scenario health problems. Sometimes with that success, you are not even sure who you are yourself and what’s really important to you. Having seen this around me, I’ve had to ask myself — is it worth it? I see people around me so busy — I’m really busy myself. But sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing will make a difference in the long run. I’d really like to think there was meaning in my life, that somehow things were different because I was here.

People tend to learn from failures and disappointments. To stay loyal to my career goals, I left another company by my own choice. I ended up back on the job market to find the best fit-company for me. I’ve been interviewing with almost 10 companies within a month. I was worried that I may not realize if these companies were a fit for me or not until too late, but my mentor reminded me: “keep doing your job: interview them! Take your time to interview them back as they do to you.”

I followed his advice: went through all the interviews successfully/unsuccessfully… Scared: thinking “I will never find a good company” or enthusiastic: hoping “This company looks promising”. I’m telling you: it was quite the experience!

The biggest disappointment for me was to realize how twisted the recruitment process can sometimes be, given that a large part of the process is like fitting square pegs in round holes. Both candidates and companies have been taught for years, unquestionably, to present themselves in embellished packages, where being honest and authentic is not accepted, it’s not considered as an ugly duckling. It is actually very similar to dating. When you go on a first date, people believe in putting their best foot forward but often confuse that with “being the person that they think their date wants to go out with” and there begins the deception! Rarely are people truly representing themselves as they are, within the first few dates. The relationship begins under false pretences and leads to future disappointment when the reality is exposed. How long will this relationship last? Will it last at all? How will the employee-employer relationship last if it’s built on the deception: high retention, disengagement?

The other disappointment I faced was “Loyalty perception”. Some employers expect that loyalty comes with a signed contract. They often forget that loyalty has to be earned, it’s not granted! It is a two-way street: the company needs to prove to employees that it deserves their loyalty, otherwise it isn’t coming. We would hear some people at companies saying: “Leavers, they’re dead to me… I’m not going to spend all this time training employee just to have them leave… they are job-hoppers who don’t know a good thing when they see it… No one is loyal anymore”.

Our upbringings have generally taught us that we should be true to ourselves since the business world won’t look after us. Therefore people are more loyal to their careers than to the companies themselves. And I consider it the right thing to do. As Oprah Winfrey once said: “You are responsible for your life, if you are waiting for someone to have you, to fix you, to even help you, you’re wasting your time, because only you have the power to take responsibility to move your life forward. And the sooner you will get that, the sooner your life gets into gear. “

Shawn Murphy, the author of the Optimistic Workplace, talked about the new definition of loyalty:

“I will give you 100% while I’m here. But if the business doesn’t allow me to have meaningful work and lead a life that is important to me, then I won’t stay very long”.

Shawn Murphy

Think of it this way, which employee displays greater loyalty?

  1. The employee who has been with you for 5 years and in that time has learned to do just enough to fly, unseen, under the performance issues radar
  2. The employee who has been with you 18 months and believes in where you are going how you want to get there-and proves it every day by their actions.

Which one would you choose?

The most loyal act an employee can do is to leave when an employee is no longer interested or motivated by his/her work. As much as it is a person’s responsibility to drive their career and not assume that they don’t need to actively manage it, it is also their own responsibility to leave when they no longer feel engaged, productive or happy.

The times are changing, and as companies see employees just as their resources, then employees see companies just as stepping stones for their careers. People will come and leave more often so employers need to be sure that they build their loyal talent fans/alumni community and that they don’t burn any bridges. Too often, when an employee resigns, bosses treat them like they are traitors and can’t wait to march them out the door. That’s like blaming someone for their own inadequacies. If many organizations would treat their employees right in the first place, they would not leave.

To give you an example: Aik, CEO of above mentioned LevelUp Ventures, my previous employer didn’t burn any bridges. When I decided to move forward from his company, he actually reinforced the bridge we already had. He acted as a servant-type leader, and actually supported my decision to leave. How?

  • Wished me all the best
  • Conducted something like an “exit” meeting and used the findings to make positive changes in his company, so he and everyone could learn from it. We talked about the past, exchanged words about the future, and talked about the next step
  • Let me know that if I need anything like a recommendation, any advice, or help I should contact him whenever
  • Showed appreciation for all my good work, with respect, small tears and with a few drinks
  • Told me that I am always welcome back
  • He has kept in touch with me during the time I was gone

I believe that this is something that all good employers should do when an employee is leaving. It’s should be a basic protocol of respect.

Perks and trendy benefits are nice, but employees seek something much more basic from their bosses: empathy, respect and appreciation.

Why I’m telling you all this? Have you heard about the Boomerang principle?

TheBoomerang principle shifts the focus to creating lifetime loyalty from your alumni who will bring back business again and again. It is a principle that allows and encourages former employees to return to their past employer.

Instead of just showing people the door, we can actively help them find the next step and welcome them back if they want to rejoin. Half of the companies have either still or have recently abandoned a policy against hiring boomerang employees “even if the employee left in good standing”

Why should you follow the boomerang principle? “First, because of this mindset and the actions, policies and cultures that derive from it, actually keep good employees in companies longer than they had planned, which in turn drives efficiency and profit. Second, returning employees become fully functional and utilized exponentially faster than new employees. Third, the larger your allegiant footprint, the more sustainable your business will be”

Your employee has incredible power over your company success not only when they are working but also with what they say to their friends and family about their work and their work experience. They can influence your success with what they share on social media while they work for you. Whether they recommend the company when there are open positions and who they recommend is powerful and telling. Look at the way your people represent you out in the world- virtual and physical- and what they say about you when they leave your company. Strong talent brand attracts employees with strong personal brands that highly align with corporate brand attributes. A talent brand is a sum of what current and former employees- the talent- feel, say and share publicly.

It all comes down to culture. Nothing is more important than culture. The more effort you devote to building a great culture that welcomes people back, the better people who are in your company today. Focusing efforts on emboldening the current culture will pay you back sooner than you think.

Do you still remember my values that I wrote above?

When I had a few jobs offers on the table, I was happy and humble but also a bit scared and confused. I wanted to make a good decision. My mentor told me: your values are your guideline. Rate every company.

During one of the last interviews/conversations I had, I said to the CEO: “You know and I know that I’m not going to be there forever, so what the next best thing I can do there? Help me figure this out.“ The CEO took time to think about it, and we met again, he mapped out six to twelve-month plan via which I could be valuable to the team and mentioned: “we will do our best to keep you as long as possible” and here we go… I followed my guideline as a compass and like a boomerang, I flew back to LevelUp Ventures. Now, it was right to come back!

  • My value: Innovation & ‘Levelup’ value : Continuous Learning

When the status quo is always challenged through brainstorming and constructive dialogues, where new ideas are highly encouraged.

  • My value: Honesty & LevelUp value: Integrity

What you think = what you say = what you do. A place where you are seen and heard and where you see and hear! A place where you are encouraged to be who you are, free of status and ego.

  • My value: Grit & LevelUp Value: Passionate Persistence

Because in an unpredictable world of change, success might not come easy, being surrounded by engaged, committed and determined people is priceless.

  • My value: Teamwork & LevelUp value: Stronger Together

Work, talk, learn, fail, achieve and celebrate together. Being selfless, generous and free of tags, status, or ego. Teamwork is and always will be the best work.

  • My value: Fun & LevelUp Value: Humour

Humour connects and brings energy! And is great for dealing with Life’s curve balls.

I’m back and I can see that the company has grown- not only in size. It’s not the same place I left anymore.

And the bride side here is that the onboarding process was dramatically faster and easier, yet still, they didn’t take it lightly, they took the proper time to explain things to me over and out, again. 🙂

We took the time to explain to the new team what I have learned whilst I’ve been elsewhere and how I can bring that to the team. I lived a completely different career while I was gone. I’m able to bring new insights, experiences and different points of view back to the company with me. I appreciated that the company didn’t treat me as the same person I was when I left and can apply what I’ve learned.

Last, but not least to say: through my experience and this story I highly encourage every company to start considering boomerang employees. “What are the benefits for me?” … I hear you ask.

  • A faster ramp to productivity, quicker cultural assimilation, the message to current employees: “it’s not so great out there, after all, we’ve got it pretty good”
  • New points of view and fresh ideas, new energy

My final thought:

Good leaders learn from their mistakes and improve. As a leader, your words and actions have an incredible impact, not only on former employees but on your current ones. Repairing a broken relationship is a powerful lesson for everyone on your team, and goes toward earning trust and loyalty from people around you.

Today’s businesses of any size need to grow the base of former employees who remain advocates, consumers, clients and friends of our companies. This is the future of the thriving workplace!

The key to having people return to your company is being a place people want to return to, here you can see what a company LevelUp Ventures is today and how I enjoyed my first month back in the family 😉