Used to be if an employee left a company of their own volition,then asked to come back, the door was closed. Now, it appears thatdoor may be starting to open.

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As the economy continues to hum along and the talent searchbecomes more desperate, a survey from The Workforce Institute atKronos and WorkplaceTrends.com indicates that these “boomerang”workers are losing the stigma they once took out the door withthem.

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“Nearly half of HR professionals claim theirorganization previously had a policy against rehiring formeremployees — even if the employee left in good standing — yet 76percent say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employeestoday than in the past,” the researchers reported. “Managers agree,as nearly two-thirds say they are now more accepting ofboomerangs.”

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Going back to a former employee still doesn’t happen often; 15percent of employees surveyed said they had returned to work for aformer employer. However, 40 percent said they would consider doingso. Apparently, the grass wasn’t as green as it looked.

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The survey found that “46 percent of millennials would considerreturning to a former employer, compared to 33 percent of Gen Xersand 29 percent of baby boomers. This could suggest that millennial employees might beleaving organizations too soon,” the study said.

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The boomerang trend seems to be working both ways: Not only areHR people more open to rehiring someone, but departed employees areincreasingly emboldened to challenge the rehiring stigma.

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“In the past five years, 85 percent of HR professionals say theyhave received job applications from former employees, and 40percent say their organization hired about half of those formeremployees who applied,” the study said.

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How an employee left turns out to be the most important factorwhen an ex-employee is under consideration for a position. Morethan half (56 percent) of HR personnel, and 51 percent of managers,“say they give very high or high priority to job applicants whowere former employees that left in good standing. Conversely, only6 and 9 percent, respectively, say they give zero priority toformer colleagues.”

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Advantages to hiring a boomeranger are obvious: They know thedrill, the culture, expectations and they don’t need muchtraining.

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“But while the overall acceptance of boomerang employees haschanged direction, HR professionals and managers still haveconcerns. Nearly one-third of HR professionals and managers claimboomerang employees have a stigma hanging over their heads thatthey might leave again, and more than one-quarter say theseemployees may have the same baggage they originally left with,” thereport stated.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.