The rise of the boomerang employee can represent a major threat, or a major opportunity. It’s up to today’s employers to minimize the former while capitalizing on the latter.
New research has shown that boomerang employees are much more common than was previously realized. The research showed that 28% of rehires are in fact corporate alumni returning to work for a former employer. And while the past few years might have been characterized by The Great Resignation, nearly 20% of workers who quit during the pandemic have now returned to their previous roles.
A team of researchers, including Anthony Klotz from the UCL School of Management and Andrea Derler, Carlina Kim and Manda Winlaw from Visier, found that the percentage of boomerang employees varied across industry. In retail, rehires accounted for 33% of all new hires, whereas they were 25% in manufacturing and just 14% in tech. They also found the boomerangs tended to be in more senior roles, with organizations tempting them back with the promise of higher salaries.
The analysis also looked at how long after departure a boomerang employee was likely to return. More than three-quarters of boomerangs were back at their original employee within 16 months, suggesting that first impressions of a new employer played a big part in whether or not they returned. This was backed up by analysis and interviews conducted by the researchers. They found that the most common reason given for returning to a former employer was that the new employer had not lived up to expectations. If an employee felt a new employer had over-promised when it recruited them or they felt some aspect of the employer / employee contract had been broken, then they were particularly likely to return.
A key factor in hiring boomerang employees was also found to be the relationship between the employee and their former colleagues. Those employees who still felt they had strong social connections with their former employer were more likely to become boomerang employees. This led the researchers to recommend that employers actively cultivate a positive relationship with their former employees. Research by EnterpriseAlumni has shown that alumni who are part of an active alumni network are far more likely to support their former employer and will want to be a part of its success.