A job in internal auditing can be demanding, both mentally and physically. After a time, some internal auditors may decide it is time for a change of pace. The motivation behind this decision may be related to income, a move up the corporate ladder, a change of scenery, or the mistaken belief that "the grass is always greener on the other side." However, once out of the audit function, auditors sometimes change their minds and have a desire to return.
The boomerang employee leaves a department, in this instance the internal audit function, for other employment opportunities, which could be at a new organization or within the same organization. Former internal auditors return for many of the same reasons they left: looking for higher salaries for newly gained skill sets, seeking to achieve new development goals, or interest in a more senior position that was not previously available. I am a boomerang employee who successfully returned to the internal audit function. I left internal auditing for three years to take on a key role in a system implementation at the same company. After successfully completing my personal goal of seeing the implementation from conception through to steady state, I was prepared for new challenges in the internal audit field to build on my newly acquired knowledge.
Every internal audit function experiences a certain level of employee turnover, some higher than others, but are these audit functions considering former employees as potential future resources? When looking to acquire talented internal audit professionals, boomerang employees may be a viable option.
Benefits of Boomerangs
So what's in it for the hiring managers? What do they get from hiring former employees? First, they know exactly what they're getting — their strengths, work ethic, and communication style. Alternatively, with new applicants, hiring managers do not have this insight and are to forced rely upon the information gathered from the interview process, resume, and references, resulting in a less predictable outcome.
Boomerang employees require minimal training. They are familiar with the company's systems and policies and have prior knowledge of the audit function's scoping and testing procedures. Hiring boomerang employees provides managers with the unique opportunity of bringing on an employee that can provide value on day one.
Depending on the time an employee has been away, and their former role, the boomerang employee can provide a fresh perspective. In my case, after completion of the system implementation project, I returned with a unique skill set in project management and the experience to consult on and evaluate future implementation projects.
Rehiring a former employee does have possible pitfalls, however. Team members of the former employee should be consulted to ensure their opinion does not differ from that of the hiring manager. If a consensus negative opinion is received on the former employee, it may be better to look for another option or face a possible drop in morale.
The culture or environment at the company may have changed and the boomerang employee must be willing to adapt to these changes, not push back on unfamiliar concepts. The frequency with which an employee switches roles also should be considered. An employee who transitions between jobs or roles every year may indicate possible issues with the employee and signal that the employee may not be in the position long, resulting in wasted recruiting and onboarding.
As previously mentioned, the alternative to hiring a boomerang is hiring someone not previously associated with the organization. Although, familiarity may be the safer bet, the potential for a stronger candidate may reside in this option.
How to Catch a Boomerang
Organizations that embrace hiring boomerang employees need to create a culture that encourages employees to return. Hiring managers should, when possible, ensure departing employees leave on good terms and foster good relationships with those employees. Do not burn bridges. Managers can encourage former employees to stay in touch via social media (e.g., Facebook or LinkedIn). Social media provides a quick and efficient way of staying in contact with many former employees through creation of groups. It also can provide a good environment for networking. If appropriate, the organization may consider creating an internal rotational program between internal audit and various other groups that can be used to not only extract knowledge from colleagues of different backgrounds, but also to equip auditors with the necessary skills to become subject matter experts.
A Case-by-case Basis
Boomerang employees provide a possible source of viable talent for the internal audit function. Considering each candidate's reasons for leaving, reasons for wanting to return, reputation with the department, any newly acquired specialized knowledge, and growth in skills such as communications and conflict resolution can help ensure a successful rehire. Creating a culture that encourages boomerangs also can be a strong step toward increasing the skill set of the internal audit function while driving down training costs.