Stories about the Great Resignation made headline news throughout 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites 4.2 million quits in October 2021, following a record 4.4 million quits in September and 4.3 million quits in August. Reasons for quitting can range from employees’ desire to continue working remotely to an emotional reaction that results in “rage quitting.”
Post-Great Resignation, what might the next workplace momentum wave look like? There’s one popular prediction, and it doesn’t pack nearly as strong a headline punch as a public resignation: Experts say employees may soon return to their former employers as boomerang employees.
What are boomerang employees?
As the name implies, boomerang employees are workers who leave an organization and then later return to it. The reasons these employees leave their company can vary from accepting a new job that seems like a good opportunity to needing to hit reset after burning out.
A little while after leaving, however, many of these employees have a realization that maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Their new jobs may not be a right fit, or enough time has passed after taking a break that they feel ready to return to work. An employee who regrets leaving their former employer, and then applies to work there again and is rehired, “boomerangs” back into the business.
Boomerang employees can be employees in any department and across any level of an organization. I know this because I personally have rehired several employees for “second tours of duty.” Funny enough, our most recent boomerang employee left during the Great Resignation and was onboarded back shortly after departing.
If predictions are correct, bringing back boomerang staff may become part of the next trend in hiring. Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, told Wired he believes this “wave of boomerang employees will last for the next five years.”
What value do boomerang employees bring businesses?
Let’s set aside the knowledge of being in a tight labor market for a moment. What kinds of benefits can a boomerang employee bring to a former employer?
- An understanding of the company. While a boomerang employee may require a bit of training if they have been gone for a while, they generally understand how a company works. They are familiar with its systems, processes, and customers as well as the company culture and work environment.
- New skill sets and knowledge. A boomerang employee that has worked for a different employer may have acquired new skills. Employees that wish to return to a former employer can use these new skills as a selling point to benefit their former role and the business.
In addition, leaving the workplace was once looked upon as a sign of disloyalty, particularly if an employee had spent years working for a company. But times are changing. Some departures, as the pandemic has shown us, are done out of necessity. Employees now tend to leave on good terms, and provide their employer with their contact information and stay in touch on professional networking platforms like LinkedIn. If an outstanding team member has been gone for a while and then reaches out to talk about potentially returning to the company, it may be worth having a conversation.
Should businesses rehire boomerang employees?
Whether a business rehires an employee should be considered on a case-by-case basis. A key factor to rehiring is the relationship between the business and the employee. Both the business and the employee must consider the nature of their relationship together. Here are a few questions to consider prior to mulling over whether to rehire an employee or not:
- Was the former employee productive in their department?
- Did their role challenge them?
- Could you trust them to arrive on time, attend meetings, meet deadlines, and work well with others?
Employees should ask themselves these questions:
- Did I enjoy the work I did at this company?
- Was the environment one that felt inclusive and encouraging?
- Did I feel like I was actively growing and that there was a path forward for me?
A second tour of duty may encourage boomerang employees to take their careers in a new direction and to become better advocates for themselves. They may want to work in a different department than the one they left. They also may try to negotiate a title change and a salary increase, which can be more cost effective for employers instead of having to go back to the recruiting drawing board.
If your business has the opportunity to rehire a former stellar employee, celebrate! Warmly welcome back the boomerang employee and give them the space to do even better things.