They’re back! Boomerang employees are returning to old jobs

Many employees regret leaving their previous company during the Great Resignation, and they are asking to return.

More than 70% of professionals are open to returning to their pre-COVID-19 employer, including half who say their original reasons for leaving no longer apply, according to recent research.

The Robert Walters Group, a global recruitment consultancy, surveyed 3,000 professionals and found that 45% of workers who left their job after pandemic lockdown did so for better pay, while 35% left for a better workplace culture or more purpose/fulfilment in their role.

Now many of those employees have changed their mind — a dynamic known as the Great Regret.

About half admit that their current employer is no longer meeting their needs, according to the Robert Walters data, with a third saying that the cost-of-living crisis and hybrid-working fatigue (24%) have changed how they feel about their new job.

Employees who leave the company they work for but then later return to work are "boomerang employees". Research published in Harvard Business Review shows 28% of new hires were actually boomerang hires who had resigned in the previous 36 months.

"Across 2021 we saw record pay rises offered to professionals, with promises of an uber flexible and hybrid culture," Robert Walters CEO Toby Fowlston said in a news release. "Come 2023, and these pay rises now pale in comparison to the rising cost of living and inflation — with those new starters who were offered inflated salaries being much less likely to have received a pay increase this year."

About 82% of employees have remained in some form of contact with their previous manager, with 29% doing so for the primary purpose of hearing about future job opportunities, according to the Robert Walters survey.

A quarter of employees have reached out to their previous employer in the past year regarding job opportunities, and 11% more intend to do so this year. Only 18% have had no contact with their previous employer.

While many professionals are willing to boomerang back to their old job, managers are less enthusiastic.

About 44% are hesitant to bring an old employee back. A fifth of managers say they would only consider it if they had been an "exceptional employee".

"I'm afraid managers/employers need to swallow their pride here," Fowlston said in the release. "Whilst the global recruitment market has slowed slightly in 2023, candidate shortages continue — and so the fact there is a pool of talent open to re-joining business should excite leaders."

Boomerang employees' familiarity with an organisation can bring benefits, including lower onboarding costs and existing relationships with colleagues.

"This is talent that can hit the ground running," Fowlston said. "They have already been inducted into your business, they will be familiar with processes, and have a previous vested interest in the brand — all qualities which can take years to instil in a new employee."

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