LeBron James’ recent decision to return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers is a notable one–and not just for what it will mean for basketball season. There’s an important hiring principle here.
Returning employees often make the best hires, according to a new study conducted by Brad Harris, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois.
In the study, which appears in the summer issue of Personnel Psychology, Harris found these so-called “boomerang” employees are not only less risky, they’re more likely to commit to the company upon their return. That’s because “in addition to understanding the organizational culture,” writes Harris, “they have learned firsthand that the grass is not always greener on the other side.”
In studying countless accountants, infantry soldiers, and basketball players, among others, Harris found many of these workers chose to leave for personal reasons, not because of dissatisfaction with the job. A pregnancy, unexpected job offer, or spousal relocation was usually to blame. Meanwhile, the employer, who may not have wanted the employee to leave in the first place, typically recruited former colleagues–people who knew the company already–to avoid turnover, which can be costly.
Of course, “not all boomerangs are created equal,” warns Harris, who found re-employment performance was strongly tied to how things left off, and how well the employee performed the first time around. It also mattered how well the employee was performing in his or her current job.
Though Harris declined to make any Cavalier predictions, he did note employees who haven’t been gone very long tend to possess the most “desirable attributes.” The reason: Not only can they more accurately recall the organizational culture, they’ll know what’s expected of them.