Rise of Boomerang employees: 55% of professionals open to returning to pre-Covid employer

  • 55% considering returning to their pre-Covid employers after realising 'grass wasn't greener'

  • 17% already contacted their previous manager with a view to future vacancies. 11% are currently considering it 

  • 49% admit original reasons for leaving (career progression, salary and flexible working) are no longer relevant   

  • 48% claim their new employer no longer meets their needs in the current climate     

  • 66% say the rising cost of living has changed how they feel about their current employer    

  •  79% of managers strongly consider rehiring former employees, 15% hesitate  

Over half of the professionals surveyed (55%) have stated that they are open to returning to their pre-Covid employer, with half admitting that the reasons as to why they left are no longer applicable in today's market. According to a recent survey from recruitment specialist Robert Walters, 38% of employees who had left their job after the lockdown did so for better pay. One in five left for a better workplace culture or to get more purpose/fulfilment in their role. Two thirds stated that the cost of living and fatigue due to hybrid working (24%) changed their opinion of their current work situation.    

Özlem Simsek, managing director of recruitment specialist Robert Walters, explains:    

 "The post-pandemic bounce back saw record numbers of employees leave their jobs in what was billed as 'The Great Resignation'. However, our research indicates the first signs of 'The Great Regret' - with 55% of professionals stating that they would like to return to their pre-Covid employer, a mere 18 months after leaving.     

Across 2021, we saw record pay rises offered to professionals, with promises of an uber flexible and hybrid culture. Come 2023, 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 early this year. It appears that workers are realizing that the grass may not have been greener after all."    

Keeping a foot in the door   

Majority of those surveyed stay in some form of contact with a previous manager in one way or another, with 17% stating that this was for the primary purpose of keeping the door open for future job opportunities. 11% said they have not yet contacted their previous employer regarding a possible return, but plan to do so this year.     

Business leaders are in favour 

Boomerang employees also appear to be a positive phenomenon on the employer side. As many as 79% of surveyed business leaders claim to be open to the return of a valuable employee. 15% remain cautious, while only 6% are not in favour. 

Özlem adds: "The tight labour market obviously plays an important role in this. Numerous vacancies are difficult to fill, so welcoming former employees who left on good terms back on board is definitely a good idea. After all, they are familiar with the way of working and the company culture and need less training time, which only speeds up and facilitates the onboarding process. Moreover, they are also more likely to be more closely involved and committed to the business, just because they returned completely at their own initiative."  

No organization likes to see good employees leave. Therefore, it is important for business leaders to create a positive offboarding experience and to inform staff who want to leave that the door is open for an eventual return, either in the same position or in a new role.    

To get the best out of boomerang employees, organizations should establish clear policies and procedures around rehiring former employees. "Such policies are an absolute must, especially when someone returns to a higher position than when they left. As a manager, you must therefore ensure that every employee has appropriate growth and development opportunities within the organization. If not, you risk conveying the message that the route to a promotion or better remuneration is the way of the boomerang. And that cannot be the intention," Özlem warns.


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