The importance of re-boarding for employee retention

Zone’s Employee Experience Strategy Director, Lauren Coe, discusses the concept of re-boarding and how the initiative is important for employee retention.

Two female employees having a discussion at work during re-boarding

Onboarding is a critical Moment that Matters for all organisations. It sets your employees up for success and drives productivity and engagement across the workforce. Research by Brandon Hall Group found that organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70% (cited by various sources). As we have seen an increase in movement of talent across all industries driven by the Great Resignation, the power of effective onboarding will drive a link to purpose, and retaining top talent has been top of the People agenda. However, despite the investment into the pre-boarding and onboarding experience, a key talent group has been forgotten — re-boarders.

As employees return to work from long-term absences — whether parental leave, sick leave, a sabbatical, or even those boomerang employees — they need a re-introduction to your organisation’s strategy, direction, and some of the mundane admin processes we all love to forget. These individuals already know your company’s purpose, understand its culture, and have an established network of relationships across the business, which often means their needs are overlooked. However, these talent groups are key to your organisation’s success, and therefore their re-boarding experience should be intentionally designed. Intentional design means thoroughly thinking about the aspects that make up the design and their impact rather than just designing an untactful process.

Each persona within this talent group will have varying and individual needs, however, there are common moments that need to be designed with the individual at the heart.

Maintaining connection during time away from the organisation

Keeping up a rapport is very personal to the individual, and it is down to the manager to understand and respect how the individual wishes to maintain contact. For individuals who have left your organisation, alumni and events are an excellent way for them to maintain a connection with your organisation and employees. For those on long-term leave, intentional communication is vital; if you have teams off-site, key company updates which impact employees personally and professionally, achieved a big win, or even if you are sending the company gifts at Christmas, do not forget absent employees. Instead, keep them involved and in the loop with what’s happening in the company.

Employees at a work event

Increase communications during pre-boarding

Understand that for some employees, there may be apprehension over returning to work. Research completed by MMB magazine in 2018 found that less than a fifth of women returning from parental leave felt happy and confident. In the weeks approaching their return, increased communications with returning employees can identify any additional support required, set expectations for the individual, and improve their engagement early. For your boomerang employees, it is risky to assume they still understand your company’s mission and strategy, or to forget that changes to teams and roles may have happened during their absence. Arranging team lunches and catch-ups can help them build their network before starting. The pre-boarding stage offers the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to the individual’s experience, understanding of the support they need, and embed them into the culture and purpose of your organisation.

Intentional day 1 re-boarding experience design

Just because the individual has already worked for your organisation does not mean they do not require onboarding, nor any less than new starters. The same MMB research mentioned above states that more than a third (37%) of women returning to work after parental leave felt so unsupported and isolated by the workplace that they considered handing in their notice. A re-boarding process designed for the individual’s needs can ensure your returners feel supported and empowered and, ultimately, stay with the organisation. To maintain consistency in employee experience, use your existing onboarding process as much as possible. Identify those sessions, services and products that will drive the experience for your returners. Identify those gaps and design interventions that create a delightful experience.

Re-boarding doesn’t finish on day 1 (or even day 90)

The interventions you design for the employee’s re-boarding should go beyond day one. It is important to give individuals time to adjust, re-build relationships, and understand any changes the company has been through in their absence to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. Continuously listen to this group of returning employees to ensure the experience you have designed is intentional and those gaps where additional or tailored support is required are actioned. The performance of your managers is vital in driving this experience; not only should you ensure that they understand the process and what is required from them, but they have the skills, knowledge, and empathy to support individuals through re-boarding.

Your re-boarding experience for employees is just as important as your onboarding experience. Design a consistent, intentional experience that still recognises the needs of the individual.



We write about customer experience, employee experience, design, content & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store

We write about customer experience, employee experience, design, content & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.