In the past, it was a rare occurrence if an employee left a company and then returned to it at a later date, either in the same position or a completely new one. Many companies strictly enforced policies that discouraged this sort of hiring of ex-employees, while the employees themselves would consider it an embarrassment to have to crawl back to their former workplace after failing to achieve success at another job. But times have changed—this type of activity has become a very common practice. In fact, it is so common that the term "boomerang employee" was coined to describe the types of workers who are able to include this type of situation on their resumes. Boomerang employees seem to be most common in technology fields, but can also be found in other work sectors (retail, for instance) as well.
When an employee leaves a company, they may have no intentions of ever returning. But just to be on the safe side, they should make absolutely sure not to burn any bridges with their former employer. In most cases, the last impression can be the strongest one—it can even overshadow years of dedicated service. By leaving on good terms, the employee creates more options for a possible return, especially if the new job isn't all that it was cracked up to be. It is also wise for them to keep in touch via phone calls, e-mails, or simple friendly letters in order to keep a pulse on the goings-on of the company. The practice of keeping in touch can also benefit the employer, who can use the ex-employee as a network source to find other talent within their particular industry.
There are other ways in which a boomerang employee can be a valuable one to a company. Many times when the employee leaves, they move on to another company that allows them to gain new skills and more experience. In most instances, this allows them to perform at a higher level than before, and even can qualify them for a different and more skilled position. In addition, the employee's familiarity with the company from their previous tenure can only help make the transition back a positive experience for all involved. The company benefits because they are getting a known commodity, rather than a fresh face that may have to undergo extensive training to familiarize themselves with the inner workings of the company.
Furthermore, studies have shown that boomerang employees tend to stick around longer in their second go-around with a company, proving to be more loyal than employees who are in the middle of their first stint with the company. Still, the employer should consider the feelings of his current employees (the ones who never left in the first place) and make sure that the rehire does not cause dissent within the ranks (especially if the boomerang employee gets a hefty raise and better position). In addition, both the employer and employee should be aware of policies that cover things like benefits, vacation time, the restoration of seniority, and other office perks in this type of situation.