Posted September 25, 2022 by Mark Perna
62% of workers who changed jobs during the Great Resignation regret it and would return to their previous employer. Here’s why companies can’t afford to miss out on this rising talent pool. Mark’s article, “Why Companies Should Embrace Boomerang Employees Who Want To Come Back,” published at Forbes.com on September 20, 2022.
Two years after Covid changed the world, the Great Resignation, or Great Reshuffle as some prefer to call it, shows little sign of slowing down—even with economic challenges on the horizon. With more open jobs than available workers to fill those positions, workers have an almost unprecedented opportunity to change employers in search of a better opportunity or to escape a toxic culture.
This record level of employee churn promises to continue based on recent employee surveys. For example, according to Workhuman’s latest research report, more than half of workers who landed new jobs recently are already planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months.
What’s truly eye-catching about this survey, though, is that nearly two thirds of these workers (62%) say that they would return to a former employer. That percentage climbs to 69% for those who left an employer to start a new job during the pandemic.
Additionally, search data recently analyzed by Conductor found that search volume has surged for phrases related to the rehiring phenomenon, such as “boomerang employee” (+222% YoY), “how to ask for your old job back” (+55%), “rehiring former employees” (+27% YoY), “regretting quitting my job” (+40% YoY) and “boomerang hiring” (+175% YoY).
This tells us that for an increasing number of people who moved jobs, the grass wasn’t truly greener. Today, they might now have what some are calling “resignation regret.”
That could represent a sizable opportunity for employers in their continued struggles to compete in the War for Talent.
“I believe winning back an ex-employee will become a considerable strategy in the future,” says Rebecca Croucher, Senior Vice President, Head of North America Marketing and Sales Enablement, for ManpowerGroup.
Here’s why you shouldn’t overlook this talent pool—and how to stay connected with them.
The numbers are shocking: about one-quarter of the entire U.S. workforce quit their jobs in 2021. But many may have been lured away by false expectations. For example, a survey of 2,500 millennial and Gen Z workers by the Muse found that 72% of respondents said their new position was very different from what they were led to believe.
That’s caused some to question why they ever left their former employer in the first place, especially where they had built longstanding relationships, were on great teams and/or had respect from peers.
“Some of the wrong reasons to leave a company are leaving for better compensation or leaving because one person works against you,” says Croucher. “It is hard to establish things like relationships and respect in a new company when you don’t have an ally or know anyone there.”
The big opportunity for employers, therefore, is to both find ways to retain their best employees while also welcoming back “boomerang” employees who might not have fully appreciated what they left.
The advantage of welcoming back these former employees is that they also take less time to ramp up and, says Croucher, “they already have a full understanding of the company they are coming back to.” It can be a win-win for both sides.
Any time an employee leaves for a different opportunity, there’s always the possibility of hard feelings on both sides depending on how things shake out. But Croucher says companies with an eye on competing for talent in the coming years will take a longer view on maintaining a relationship with a soon-to-be ex-employee.
“Companies are learning to exit employees with an open door to come back,” says Croucher. “Creating a smooth exit and then continuing to engage with former employees after they leave can provide a more professional and welcoming approach if that person wants to come back.” In other words, don’t burn your bridges.
Croucher says that some strategies companies are already embracing to keep those relationships with their ex-employees alive is by investing in “Alumni” groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. They are also scheduling career “check-in” calls with their former employees a few months after they left.
“Building an alumni group and an email cadence with former employees are some of the faster ways to encourage employees to come back,” says Croucher.
Of course, companies must also wrestle with the facts about why their employees left in the first place. If there’s a perception that they operate a “toxic workplace,” you have an immediate need to take corrective action.
Organizations can learn a lot through objective feedback from those former employees who might be primed to return as boomerangs. It’s one more reason to maintain that relationship and keep the lines of communication wide open.
“A strong cultural foundation and showing a sense of gratitude might be key to helping employees realize that the grass isn’t always greener,” says Croucher.
She points out that people who were thanked in the last month are half as likely to be looking for a new job and three times more likely to see a path to grow within the organization.
“There is no end date for the ‘Great Resignation’,” she says, “but employers looking to mitigate turnover can start by strengthening their culture. Rehiring employees into roles they will be successful in and showing them appreciation goes a long way.”
Of course, it’s not just employers who can take the first step in rectifying what might have been a misstep in leaving a job.
For anyone who might be regretting their own job change, Croucher says it’s not too late to build a bridge back to their previous employer.
“Pick up the phone, send a quick email or send a LinkedIn message,” she says. “It might be uncomfortable, and they might not respond, but people will usually help or make introductions if they can.”
That’s especially true these days when so many employers are on the hunt for talent. If you’re plagued by doubts about leaving a job, you likely don’t have to live with that regret any longer. Reach out to them—they’ll probably be thrilled to hear from you. Everyone deserves a second chance.