26 September 2023

The rise of the boomerang employee

Start the conversation

The pandemic has coincided with an increase in people walking away from their jobs. But Alex Sims* says another career trend is surging alongside it: the rise of the boomerang employee.

The Covid pandemic has shaken up nearly every aspect of our lives.

But one of the biggest areas of turbulence has been our careers.

Dramatic changes in our working lives, such as working remotely from home and going through periods of furlough, has affected the way many people feel about their jobs and career trajectories.

Given this, it’s no surprise that 2021 became the year of The Great Resignation, with people quitting their jobs in huge numbers.

A survey from recruitment firm Randstad UK found almost a quarter of workers are actively planning to change employers – citing reasons such as burnout and lack of motivation.

Research from Glassdoor revealed 30 per cent of the women it surveyed had changed jobs since the start of the pandemic.

However, at the same time, another career trend is also emerging: the ‘boomerang employee’.

What is a ‘boomerang employee’?

Boomerang employees are people who have been re-hired to work at a company they previously left.

According to LinkedIn, 4.5 per cent of new recruits on its platform were boomerangs compared with 3.9 per cent in 2019.

The reasons for a person leaving their job are varied, be it receiving another seemingly more attractive job offer elsewhere, going through a change in life circumstances or taking some time away from work altogether as a result of burnout.

But, the overriding similarity between boomerang employees is that, for them, joining The Great Resignation wasn’t as satisfying as they thought it would be.

Just as Joni Mitchell once wisely crooned, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” leaving a company has allowed many ‘quitters’ to reassess their former roles in a different and more positive light.

The significant rise in the number of companies bringing back boomerang staff suggests it may become a new trend in hiring.

Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who coined the term ‘The Great Resignation’ told Wired that this wave of boomerang employees will last for the next five years.

As with quitting, there can be many reasons for wanting to return to a former organisation.

A new company may not have the right culture, other people will have recovered from burnout and want to return to work or a company may have changed its views on things such as flexible working.

The pandemic may also be more directly to blame for the rise in boomerang hires.

According to the Financial Times, over the last two years, people quitting jobs and starting new roles will have had to deal with remote onboarding and working from home.

All of which make it harder to get to grips with a new company and create social bonds with new colleagues.

What are the advantages of being a boomerang employee?

For an employer, re-hiring old employees can reduce training costs and increase productivity by getting people back that already know an organisation.

But what’s in it for the employee?

A study by Cornell University compared the experiences of 2,000 boomerang employees with around 11,000 new hires at a US-based healthcare organisation.

It found that boomerangs outperformed the new hires, especially in roles requiring “high levels of administrative coordination”.

There are a number of reasons for this.

According to the Financial Times, many boomerangs will return to a company with newfound confidence after learning new skills and gaining new experience, but being able to apply them in a familiar, comfortable setting.

Other boomerang employees may feel more confident dealing with their bosses after leaving and being re-hired.

Returning employees will also have a better understanding of how a company works, meaning getting settled in can be a more enjoyable experience when compared to trying to get to grips with a new working culture remotely.

What to bear in mind if you’re thinking about boomeranging?

If you’re thinking about boomeranging back to a former company, careers platform Indeed has advice for what to bear in mind before you make the move.

Indeed says it’s important to remind yourself why you parted ways with a company in the first place and to be wary of looking back with rose-tinted nostalgia.

Make a list of the reasons you left and try to make a clear decision about why you want to return without loyalty interfering with your reasoning.

Speak to your former colleagues.

If you are still in touch with people at the organisation, let them know you are applying for a position and get their perspective on what has changed since you left.

You may find there have been significant changes and it may not be the right fit for you anymore.

Always remain aware of your career goals.

Be very clear about why you want to go back to a former company.

Always think about how going back will help you go forward.

Stay positive.

No matter how good you feel about returning to a former place of work, it can also be mixed with feelings of disappointment and going backwards.

If you know this is the right move for you, approach it with positivity.

*Alex Sims is Acting Commissioning Editor, Digital at Stylist Magazine.

This article first appeared at stylist.co.uk.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.