Good Things Come Back Around

Good Things Come Back Around

If you love someone, set them free. Old advice for the lovelorn, but also, a great way to treat your employees. Lee Caraher, author and CEO of Double Forte, returns to discuss her latest book, The Boomerang Principle. We’ll discuss the new norm of “job hopping”, what it means to “boomerang” and how you can embrace it to bring former employees back as customers, clients, partners, even returning employees.


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Run Time: 41:51

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Brandon Laws: Okay, so today’s episode, I brought back Lee Caraher. She is the CEO of a PR firm named Double Forte. She’s the author of Millennials and Management and I had her on previously. For those that are followers of the podcast and have been loyal for the last few years, we brought her on to talk about Millennials and Management and that was such a fascinating discussion.

That book is still skyrocketing in sales just because millennials are entering the workforce at such a rapid rate. They’re becoming such a large portion of it. So go get that book. Listen to that podcast, if you don’t have a lot of time.

But today, I brought her back on to talk about her newer book, The Boomerang Principle and this book is really all about how to create a great culture where – when the people’s time is up and opportunities are exhausted within the workplace, they may leave. But because you treated them fairly, you had a good culture and they think so highly of you, they may come back when other opportunities arise.

So this book is very fascinating. I really enjoyed it and I think you’re going to love this discussion with Lee. So I will step out of the way and enjoy the episode.

Brandon Laws: Lee, it’s so awesome to have you back on the podcast. Welcome.

Lee Caraher: Brandon, thank you so much for having me back. I’m so excited to talk with you again.

Brandon Laws: I know. We’re like best friends. I enjoy talking with you and you write amazing books. So it’s fun to talk with you and you have great content to talk about.

Lee Caraher: Thank you.

Brandon Laws: The last time we spoke, you have the book Millennials and Management and that was a fantastic podcast. So I recommend people to go back and listen to that and obviously get the book too. That thing is just packed with ideas about how to manage millennials and that thing has been taking off, right?

Lee Caraher: It has.

Brandon Laws: I mean you’ve had a lot of success with that book.

Lee Caraher: Actually since my second book came out, that – my first book is actually really taking off. So it has been awesome to see. I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback. Oh, this was – this chapter in particular was really helpful to people or that kind of thing. So I just wanted to help people. So I’m glad that it’s doing its job.

Brandon Laws: Yeah. So your newer book The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty from your Employees. When did you release that book?

Lee Caraher: Those released in 2017, mid-2017, so a year ago.

Brandon Laws: So as people are probably running across your new book, buying it, are they going back and reading the Millennials and Management?

Lee Caraher: They are.

Brandon Laws: Yeah. I figured as much.

Lee Caraher: Yeah. They go together for sure. You don’t have to read them together but they definitely build on one another. You can read them either way. Boomerang first then Millennials second, or Millennials first and Boomerang second.

Brandon Laws: What is the Boomerang Principle? What led you to write this book in the first place?

Lee Caraher: The Boomerang Principle is the idea that those companies and organizations that allow and encourage former employees to return to them have a strategic advantage over those that don’t. My – the impetus for the book was really out of the work I was doing for the Millennials and Management book.

So I still do this. I do a lot of keynoting. I do workshops, big companies, small companies, non-profits, for-profits, all over the country. In every single of those sessions, I would have someone say, someone older say, “I don’t want to train these people. I mean they’re just going to leave and I have to start all over again,” number one. And the next thing they would say is, “You know, if you leave me, you are dead to me.”

I was like, “No!” So the idea that we could – a company could hold a person for their whole lives is outrageous, number one. And really when people leave on their own volition and not when we told them to, either by helping them along or firing them or laying them off, that’s when they get pissed. Well, that’s ridiculous and the idea that you’re only loyal to me when I pay you is ridiculous too.

So my whole goal with the second book was to talk about, you know, here we are in the modern workforce. A modern workforce has much more say and much more responsibility on themselves to create a career that makes sense for them than in the past where companies would have held people for much longer.

In that reality, we should not be casting people out of our circles just because they are pursuing their own goals. Instead, if we can keep people loyal to us and connected to us for their whole careers, this is where we’re going to have – companies and organizations will have an advantage. So that’s sort of the impetus for this book.

Brandon Laws: Your entire chapter two is all about loyalty and I think the way you described it, I thought it was really fascinating because I think decades ago, maybe as recent as 10 years ago, I think loyalty meant something much different than it does now. Can you elaborate on what it means to be loyal nowadays either as an employer or as an employee?

Lee Caraher: Sure. I think loyalty – I don’t know if the definition has changed. I think that the application of that definition has changed. So before, really before, before the mid – you know, the early ‘90s, late ‘80s, early ‘90s, that’s the timeframe when publicly-traded companies started working toward shareholder value versus just pure profit.

Increasing shareholder value meant laying people off, minimizing organizations, and that’s really where you saw the change from a long-term view to a quarterly view in terms of performance. With that change, people, employees became less important in terms of performance.

When that happened, so that then we get to 2008 and that’s really the last nail on the coffin on hanging with the company forever, getting a watch, right? That American dream. The American dream of you find a company, you work hard for them and the company takes care of it for you – of you.

You know, that’s an old concept. It was pretty anachronistic when it started but it was sort of – it has had a lot of lore in our culture and basically 2008 just nailed the coffin on that thing. Because it’s not true that a company could keep anybody. It’s not true that we can control who merges and who doesn’t and who makes it and who doesn’t.

In the outcome of that, the people know and adult children of boomers and Xers and silents have been told, “Do not count on a company to hold you. Make sure that you’re relevant. Don’t get stale.” So when we think about loyalty, loyalty is an act of doing something for somebody else when you’re not expecting a quid pro quo, when you’re not expecting something in return.

To equate loyalty with staying with the company or organization is a false equivalency because I am paying you. While I pay – that’s a transaction. That’s not loyalty.

Brandon Laws: Yeah, absolutely. That is – why did you say that? It’s a business transaction.

Lee Caraher: It’s a transaction. I get a paycheck. I show up to work. I do my job.

Brandon Laws: It seems like loyalty would mean you live up to your end of the bargain as part of that transaction.

Lee Caraher: Yeah. I think actually the most loyal thing an employee can do is leave the company or the organization or the team when they’re no longer inspired by the work at hand because you need to bring your A-game. It’s increasingly challenging, increasingly important to focus on performance and bringing your A-game all the time. If you can’t bring your A-game because you’re not inspired, go find another job. And that is actually a loyal act.

Brandon Laws: You had this statistic in your book. I think it’s from an Intuit study that said by 2020, 40 percent of the American workforce will be contract workers with no employees and I’m just really curious what your thought is on why that movement is happening. Is it because of this whole Boomerang Principle? Is it just the economic shift? Is it the tight labor market that we’re experiencing? What is attributing to that movement?

Lee Caraher: I think a lot of things sort of contribute to that. One is that we’re moving – when you have high performers, so the highest performers of us, the top 25 percent are always in demand no matter what the economy does. We always want those best workers.

Now, because this whole idea of, you know, ‘go to a company, stay forever, get a watch’ thing has been broken, best performers can choose where to go.

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: And have much more choice. There’s a lot of silver – you know, golden handcuffs in making sure that you pay people a lot of money and you give them a lot of stuff. That’s definitely true for engineers, older engineers. But at the same time, companies are shedding people all the time, right? So those best talents want to have more control over what they do for their careers and the best talent goes where the best talent is, right?

So that’s one piece. The second piece of the equation is sort of below the line, above the line. Companies in every single sector have limited their risk on above-the-line overhead with employees by moving a lot of work to contractors, contracts with other agencies and individuals, so that they don’t have to carry the load and it’s easily expendable and that’s just an accounting thing, right?

That’s definitely for publicly-traded companies. That is an accounting function that – or for companies that are looking to get EBITDA, so they can do something, like have an exit or raise money or whatever it is. So they have moved to having people, lots of people, 40 percent, 50 percent, Google, Apple – I mean just so many companies don’t use fulltime employees anymore, so that they can – it’s an accounting function more than it is anything else.

So by – maybe people want to be contractors so they have more freedom. But the companies, particularly the large companies, are pushing towards more contractors to have more control over their P&L.

Then you have a good economy, right? You have the rise of the freelancer, the rise of personal branding being so important, being able to create your own brand, being able to work on any of these platforms like Upwork. I mean there are so many. So all those things together. All those things together mean that we have fewer employees who are going to be actually employed by the company that they work for and more individuals who are working for agencies as roll-ups or individuals as contractors over time.

Brandon Laws: Let’s talk about talent a little bit. So as we sit here today, it’s August 2018. The labor market is super tight right now and I think –

Lee Caraher: Super tight.

Brandon Laws: Employers are like – you mentioned want to hold on their talent, probably the top of the top. They want to keep them and they’re probably scared that they’re going to have better opportunities elsewhere and they know they need them grow their business and all that.

With the concept of your book, how important is the Boomerang Principle with what kind of market we’re in right now as far as labor goes?

Lee Caraher: Super important. So think about this, right? If you have a company that people want to return to, you have a company that people have a hard time leaving, right? So the – creating a good culture, creating opportunity for people. It doesn’t mean you can keep them forever. But it does mean that if you create a place where people like to be, they are more likely to stay for longer than they thought and they’re very likely to return if you provide the opportunity because culture actually matters. Really, culture is King Kong on this stuff.

People like to have low drama, high production, right? And the less friction, the better and those organizations that can move towards that are going to have a strategic advantage in terms of recruiting new people and keeping people and returning people later on in their career.

So you or I, we leave our company. We go do something else and then we’re on to the next thing and, wow, it would be great to go back to that company. Yeah! I would love to do that.

One, more and more people think of that as an option and two, when you bring somebody back, they’re more valuable to you than when they left you because –

Brandon Laws: They developed on somebody else’s dime at that point.

Lee Caraher: Yeah, they got other experience. You’ve already vetted them as a person.

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: Right? So they come in and number one, they’re more valuable and then two, they can be more valuable faster than a new hire because they already have the shortcuts of the culture. The average person takes six to nine months to really become utilized fully in a new job and with the boomerang person, you cut that down by up to seven to eight months. So you’re getting better all the way around.

Brandon Laws: So I think this begs the question, “What does it take to build a company or a culture where people want to stay, but when they feel like they’re done, they leave and they come back?” How do you build that kind of company? That sounds like a utopian environment.

Lee Caraher: I don’t think so. It’s – here’s the deal, right? It’s super messy. It’s messy because it’s people and people have different needs at different times of their lives and their careers. So one is just having the mindset. We’re going to create a place where the best people come and we keep them as long as we possibly can. If they’re not the best people, they have to go. I mean you can’t have this – this is utopia if you don’t have high expectations and high performance, right? Because you just can’t hold people and hold people. We’re talking about high performers creating a culture that is sustaining and thriving.

So the first piece is sort of what are you about? What is the vision of your entity? Why do you exist as a company? When you understand really fully what is your vision, what is your mission, then you’re able to attract people who have liked visions and missions. In general, when we think about low friction, people have friction points too and when they actively grind against the mission of something that they’re working for, their work is inefficient because we’re humans, right? So that’s number one. Vision and mission, know what it is. Articulate it. Say it over and over and over again.

Two is really understanding and being willing to say that people can come in at one place and end at another, more than they ever imagined, right? And really thinking about opportunities for people. So how do you enter somebody into your organization and say, you know, it would be the easiest thing for my company if someone just came in and said, “I want to do this for a year and that for two years and then this for three years.” That’s just not the way the world works anymore, right? That ladder does not exist.

One of the reasons the ladder doesn’t exist is because work is changing so fast that one job description, you need to look at those job descriptions every 18 to 24 months because they have to change so much because of all the different – all the changes in the economy, all the changes in workflow.

So just talking about opportunity, being open to saying, “You know what? You want to start here and you want to – oh, you want to be a podcaster?” Well, Brandon, you did this, right? You said, “I want to be a podcaster,” and they let you do it. That wasn’t like part of your original remit, I’m sure.

Brandon Laws: Yeah, exactly.

Lee Caraher: So being open to – you have an idea, how you can contribute in a more – in another way. Please bring it to me. I’m happy to entertain anything like that.

So being open to possibilities, being open to different kinds of opportunities is the next piece.

The third piece is training and development and reinforcement. The biggest request is for mentorship from – here’s the biggest request from millennials today. One, who is my mentor? Two, how many volunteer days do I get? Three, I assume we have leadership training day one, truly. So making sure that there are opportunities for learning. The most important thing people can do today is be a learning organization with learners in your organizations.

So what are the different opportunities for learning throughout the day, throughout the month, throughout the year, so that people can continue to stay relevant? If a company helps people stay relevant, they will be relevant for them and for the rest of the market.

Brandon Laws: I want to hone in on that development piece, the mentorship aspect too. So the skeptic would probably say, “Well, why do I want to develop somebody if they’re just going to leave anyway?” What’s your answer to that?

Lee Caraher: My answer to that is if you don’t put any effort towards development and training, then they will leave faster.

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: So then you’re left with people who don’t know what the hell to do. So don’t worry about training people who leave you. Worry about not training people who stay with you because they are dragging you down. That is an inefficient, profit-losing opportunity, right?

If you build and have a culture of learning and practice and new skills and all that kind of stuff and opportunity for learning new things and really mastering your craft, people will stay longer. There’s a lot of data that demonstrates this.

When you have someone – because, oh my god, just train that person. You train them for you. You didn’t train them for them.

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: And a lot of it has to be sort of changing your mindset on who you’re training for. You know, and I think that the – you know, the Armed Forces of the United States have done a tremendous job over the last 15, 20 years on changing – you know, boot camp still sucks. It still weeds out lots of people who can’t hack it. But it’s definitely a – if you think about total command and control, right? It’s when we – how I think about military training. It’s not that anymore. It is much more attuned to the person and what they can do and how they can be the best they can be.

That’s how we need to have that opinion even if we need to get the job done. You can get a job done and learn something new all at the same time. There’s a lot of hidden capacity.

Brandon Laws: It does seem like if you spent time developing and mentoring people, that they would feel like it’s for them and not for just the organization and then they would be more likely to spread that knowledge to other people and create that learning organization you’re talking about.

Lee Caraher: Exactly. Learning organizations share. They share things among people and they help each other out without being asked and you might – at the end, you might – just like I’ve learned everything I can. I actually want to do something new. So that’s not a failure on the organization’s part at all. That could just be I need to move to Ohio or I need to – I really want to be a nurse.

Well, I’m not a hospital. Therefore – you know?

Brandon Laws: Yeah, I’ve heard that before, something like that.

Lee Caraher: Something like that, right? So people have different needs and different desires for their own careers and they may not share it all with you. They don’t have to share everything with you when they join or they may have a change in their lives. Someone dies. They get children. They adopt. They move to another – whatever it is and you can’t – your job, your company does not fit into what a person wants to do. That’s why it’s really – the challenging part of HR, I think, is that we want it to be nice and neat. We want checkboxes, right?

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: And people do not fit into checkboxes.

Brandon Laws: I think you said it perfectly. You said it’s messy.

Lee Caraher: It’s super messy. When you get used to – it’s sort of a – it’s an art, not a science, right? It’s keeping high performance, having high expectations, making sure vision and mission are aligned, creating opportunities for learning and training and setting – again that expectation thing. We’re trying to get to A plus here, not C plus people, right? And not allowing, not allowing the C plus work. That is messy. There’s a lot of mess there but you can hold these principles. When you hold the principles and aren’t prescriptive about checking the boxes, people have much more A, ability to maneuver in them and actually figure out better ways to do things and B, people are happier, absolutely happier. And here’s what I definitely know is true – when you have a happier workforce, you have a more profitable workforce.

Brandon Laws: You have a chapter on why millennials thrive and there’s an excerpt that I love that I wanted to state for you real quick and get your reaction. So you say, “in the more than 500 interviews I’ve done with millennials in the past three years, I’ve heard one rendition or another of ‘Why don’t they ask my opinion?’ time and time again.”

It seems to me – and this is my commentary here – but if you’re going to build a culture and you want to have people who are really excited about their work and ultimately it’s going to transform your business to be more profitable, it seems like this would have to be at the top of the list or near it.

Lee Caraher: Absolutely and I think there are two things. One is moving from a command and control hierarchical organization to being a high input, low democracy organization takes time and it takes practice, right? And also learning how to give input and be OK with it when people don’t take your ideas also takes time and maturity. So the best organizations, we know of so much about the best decisions, the best organizations. We know that teams in general – over and over and over again, teams make better decisions than individuals by 67 percent.

So if you’re sitting by yourself and you’re making a big decision, get some other people in there and have them help you out, right? Because, you know, 60 percent of the time, they’re making a better decision. Not just an equal one. A better decision.

Then we also know that diverse teams make better decisions than individuals 89 percent of the time. Well, that doesn’t mean that everyone who is on that diverse team, if you have 20 ideas, 20 ideas don’t go into implementation.

What it does mean is that those 20 ideas come together. They provide context. They provide input. They build on each other, so that you can make a better decision that impacts more people. So the high input part is being able to listen and ask for feedback and input and points of view that then are considered. They’re considered together and then someone, whoever is in charge, makes the decision. Now here’s how we’re going forward. Thank you for all your input. Here’s how we’re going forward and acknowledges the fact that everybody who raised their hand actually shaped the outcome.

Brandon Laws: I love that.

Lee Caraher: Everybody wants to have impact on their outcome. Who doesn’t want to have impact on their outcome?

Brandon Laws: Well, they want to know they’re tied to the greater good of the organization or they’re actually contributing something. I love that.

Lee Caraher: I think from a leadership perspective, it’s making sure you provide context. You build time into your schedule, so you can gather this input, right? And you can have time to consider it and have time for people to basically ruminate around in their concepts.

It does create more need for upfront but it speeds up the implementation so much faster, Brandon. Really it’s incredible. So I actually just – I’m working with a company right now on this high input, low democracy concept and I had to – basically it’s eight steps. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, Lee! Eight steps.”

I’m like, “Well, you don’t need eight steps to figure out what you’re going to have for lunch, right?” You don’t need that. But if you have a program that you’re going to launch and you need everybody’s input, well, just having a meeting about it is not enough, right? You want to send an email that says, “Here’s the concept. Here’s a straw person on the thing. I need your ideas on this idea, on what we’re going to do, in writing beforehand by a certain date.” You know, give a few days.

Then you want to compile all that feedback and compile all that input and then send it out so everyone can see everybody’s point of view. Well, there’s time right there. Then you have your meeting where everyone can then – then you have a guided discussion on how can we make it better. How can we have a bigger impact? How can we make it faster? Based on all the input you’ve gotten and then you don’t make a decision there. This is the – where everybody breaks down. Oh, I made a decision in a meeting. Well, no, right? Don’t because you may have people who didn’t attend. You may have people – like they wake up the next morning and go, “Oh my gosh! I totally forgot about Thursday at noon,” whatever, right?

So you gather – you come to consensus, a loose consensus in a meeting and then the leader puts it together and says, “I think we’re going forward this way,” and then you send that out again as an email or a writing or something.

Then you get more feedback in writing, so that people who are extroverts, people who are introverts, people who are remote, who are on site, all have time to consider it. Then sometimes if you’re not 60 percent there, you probably need to meet again.

But if you’re 60, 70 percent there, then getting the input lets you make the decision. Make the decision and then rule it out in a meeting, right? Which is here’s how we’re going forward. Everybody’s input mattered. We can’t do everything. We’re going to do this, this, this and this. We’re going to – and then the next thing is you’re not done yet. You’re going to measure that in 30, 45 days. Is it working? OK. If it’s working, great. So that seems really laborious, doesn’t it? It’s like oh –

Brandon Laws: No, but it seems like you’re involving them in the process.

Lee Caraher: And then everybody is involved in the process. A leader still has to lead. People still have to participate. You haven’t – and people who have been in hierarchical command and control organizations really have a hard time in this transition. Like oh, you’re giving it – now I have 140,000 bosses or now everybody’s input counts.

Like yeah, everybody’s input counts. But it doesn’t mean that everybody’s input goes into – comes into implementation. It doesn’t. The leader has to lead and this is where leadership in this high input, low democracy thing is really – it’s learned over time. You have to learn how to listen and not just – and leave time to listen and then people, when they know they’ve been listened to, bam! That’s when you get people who are invested in what you’re doing.

Brandon Laws: In the same chapter about millennials, you talk about a couple of themes that ring very true for that millennial generation – work-life balance and don’t get stale and I resonated with this so much. I’m actually technically a millennial. I’m probably on the upper end of it. But like I’m frightened of getting stale and like the work-life integration of – like so into my work but also kind of bleeding that over to my personal life and vice-versa.

Those are two things that I think have to be true for a lot of those millennials out there. What are you kind of seeing about that?

Lee Caraher: I think it’s true for everybody now frankly.

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: I think – one of the reasons, in particular millennials, are so worried about becoming stale is because their parents became stale and when they lost their – you know, eight to ten million boomers lost their job in 2008, 2009 and millions of them couldn’t find new work even when there was work because they were considered out of touch. They’ve been in a company for seven, eight, nine, ten years and oh, they can’t possibly be relevant anymore, right?

So they heard that from their parents. Don’t get stale. Don’t get stale. We also know – you know, I started my business – my business is a public relations firm. Now our business is a public relations and social media marketing firm. And I started my business –

Brandon Laws: I’ve adapted.

Lee Caraher: Well, we started our business before Twitter, before LinkedIn, before Facebook, before Instagram, before Pinterest. Well, 60 percent of our business is in there. So if you’re not always learning new things and it’s just the rate of change is so much faster. The function is the same. The function is actually the same. We help companies and people connect with the people who are are – who manage them for their business. That’s what we do. But how we do it is so different. So staying relevant is important for everybody. Millennials in particular are very concerned about it because they see what happened to their parents. And then getting stale is about being irrelevant, right? Getting stale.

When you feel like you know everything, be worried because there’s no way. There’s an algorithm change. Somebody else came into the – you know, a new competitor came in. Work changed in South America that’s impacting you, whatever it is. So complacency is just – it’s contagious and it’s deathly.

Brandon Laws: Is there anything an employer can do to help their employees not be stale?

Lee Caraher: Well, I think there’s lots of things you can do and there are two pieces of it, right? What’s the employer’s responsibility and what’s the person’s responsibility? I feel pretty strongly that the employer’s responsibility is to provide opportunity. Not all opportunity but opportunity and the employee’s responsibility is to make sure that they are crafting the career that they want and if you – if an employer creates opportunity to – for people to learn and practice and master as they’re doing their work, in the jobs that they have to do, right? Then – I’m not saying you have to like all of a sudden become a hospital because someone wants to be a nurse.

I’m saying so we help people connect with audiences. So we have to have people who are really good at social media. So we have social media classes. We have – we call it “appy hour”. Once a month, we look at all these different apps. Like everybody has to download them and learn them, so there’s something new.

We do presentation training. Every Tuesday is our staff meeting. Someone presents every single Tuesday. So they get used to talking in front of people, which is super important in our business. You know, those kinds of things are pretty – they’re pretty informal, right? And then if we have big – then you have individual needs too. Someone is a really good writer but someone doesn’t know how to do photos. Someone is good with photography, can’t caption. Well, you have to provide those kinds of things.

But if a person doesn’t learn along, it’s not that company’s responsibility to drag them along. It’s the company’s responsibility to say, “If you don’t meet these standards of performance and knowledge, you got to go,” right? Because you do, right? And that’s – and I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, I got to this point in my career. I don’t want to learn anything new. I just want to do what I want to do.”

Brandon Laws: Oh, that’s just sad.

Lee Caraher: I just want to do what I want to do and that is an older point of view. I’m not saying experience doesn’t matter. I’m not saying like just multiple times of dealing with something doesn’t matter because it does. But not being able to execute today is pretty much a death knell for anybody.

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: No matter how old you are.

Brandon Laws: Well, let’s talk about those boomerang employees. So let’s say you’re considering bringing somebody back that has already worked for you. What are some of those must-ask interview questions? I mean because you’ve already interviewed them back in the day. They worked for you.

Lee Caraher: Right.

Brandon Laws: So you don’t need to ask some of those basic interview questions that you’re just trying to get to know somebody. What are those really important things that you’re going to ask those previous employees before you hire them back?

Lee Caraher: The first piece is to understand why would they want to come back. What are they looking for? What attracts them to returning? Second, you want to find out what the heck did they learn when they were gone. What did they do? What is their portfolio? Where could you plug them in, in a different place? Because you’re probably not going to have someone come back to do the same job. Probably.

Brandon Laws: Yeah.

Lee Caraher: Unless it’s – maybe it’s plumbing. I don’t know. Plumbing is plumbing and there are not enough plumbers in the world. So please, go be a plumber. But I don’t know that plumbing changes that much for water pressure. So you may bill a higher rate, that’s for sure.

So what have they done? And then the third piece is, what do they want to do? How would they like the next phase of their second tour of duty with you or their third tour of duty with you, what do they want it to look like? What did they – what do they hope has changed since they left? What do they hope is the same since they left? You know, that kind of stuff because no one – you know, so you add a person. You delete a person and the organization can change.

So being really clear about who is this person. Where are they in their career right now? What do they hope for? How do they want to participate and contribute to your organization as they return?

I think it’s being – you don’t have to say, “Are you the right person?” because you like them, right? You already figured out that they can fit in. But are they going to fit in the right place? You want to make sure it’s a good match. Don’t just bring someone back to bring them back. But is it a good match for what you need and what they are?

Brandon Laws: I’m really curious how employers bring employees back. Is it the employer brand? Is it just previous reputation? Is it – are we staying in touch with employees who left? What do you see? Is it all those things?

Lee Caraher: I think it’s all of those things and I think that the most – if you haven’t – if your listeners don’t have this, which I’m sure they don’t, because most companies don’t. But if you can do one thing – so it’s August now. If you could do one thing, start 2019 with a corporate alumni program.

Brandon Laws: Oh, I like that.

Lee Caraher: Do a corporate alumni program that you manage, right? Not that sort of rogue ex-employees on LinkedIn. But that you manage that gathers all your employees into a place. My company is very small. So I use Facebook private groups for this. Find out where they are. Get them all – if you don’t know where they are – this works for companies that have 100,000 alumni and 10 alumni. If you have 100,000 alumni, you sort of have to start at the top and you work your way through, right?

But who do you want to keep in touch with? Who of your other older employees, your former employees, do you want to be in touch with? I would say all or all that have left you well. All that you would love to – who you know are doing well in the world.

Then put them in – if you can get a private network, I use – like I said, I use Facebook groups for this. But you can – there are several different – and I have them in the book. Several different systems that you can employ for this that are more robust than what Facebook has.

Then what is that network going to have? So in our network, we have people who are posting jobs for each other inside our Facebook page, our Facebook group. We’re posting jobs. We’re providing information on what we’re working on now. We’re providing our podcast. We’re providing – sometimes we have training that we just offer up to our former employees that they can use if they want. Discounts from our clients if people are doing a BOGO or something like that. We offer to our former employees.

You just keep people connected with you, right? That’s the first thing. We also – they get a – they’re on our email list. So they get an email from us once a month, just whatever email is that month on either the topic of our business or what’s happening in our offices.

Then we try to surprise and delight our alumni once or twice a year. So is it – if we get a schwag bag for our employees, can we add a hundred so we can send it to other people? That kind of thing.

So the first piece is just keeping people connected to you, right? And if you don’t have one, it takes a while to organize, but think about 2019 as the year you’re going to really kick it into gear. So you have four months now to get that into gear. So that it’s valuable and useful and doesn’t take a lot of time to administer. What it does take time is to get people – you have to dedicate at least half a body to identifying people and in general, I would take this out of – usually it’s better in the communications department, because they’re used to communicating with different audiences than it is in the HR department unless it’s really an excellent communicator in the HR department.

Brandon Laws: Lee, I have so enjoyed our discussion. Honestly, I could talk to you for hours and hours about this stuff and I think The Boomerang Principle and even your work before with Millennials and Management, I think this is so timely and needed right now. What do you want to say to listeners in closing and where can people find you as well?

Lee Caraher: The place to find me is on my website You can follow me on Twitter at @LeeCaraher, on Instagram or LinkedIn. I’m very easy to find. I blog on these topics all the time. I speak on these topics. On the website, you can find my books. You can find my speaking. You can find my blog.

I think for the last thing I want to say is work doesn’t have to suck, number one. Number two – and I’ve sort of dedicated this part of my brain to helping companies realize it doesn’t have to suck. It does require a lot – it does require a change. It does require an understanding that people have different needs today than maybe if I’m a boomer than we had when I – we started our careers.

But that if companies hold high expectations and people hold high accountability for themselves, we can find great employees and employers where we can make a big difference in the world. If that’s your point of view, you’re going to have a strategic advantage over anybody else because that’s what’s going to motivate people more than anything else.

Brandon Laws: Lee, you are a great friend of me and the podcast. You are welcome back anytime and I know the listeners really appreciate this topic.

Lee Caraher: I will be back next week! Thank you! No, I’m kidding.

Brandon Laws: Yeah, all right. Let’s do it. Weekly series coming up.

Lee Caraher: Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! People will get tired of that very quickly, Brandon.

Brandon Laws: Really appreciate it, Lee. Thanks for coming on.

Lee Caraher: Thanks Brandon.

Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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