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The Rise Of Boomerang Employees: Why Are More People Going Back To Their Old Jobs Than Ever Before?

With the job market more competitive than ever before, companies are jumping on candidates at a faster rate than we’ve seen in recent times. However, it’s becoming harder and harder to attract new talent. But what about employing an ex-employee?

The number of so-called ‘boomerang employees’ has been on the rise since the pandemic; LinkedIn states that 4.5% of new recruits on its platform are ex-employees at that company – compared to 3.9% in 2019. Likewise, almost 1 in 5 (19%) workers recently surveyed said they’d gone back to an old employer within the last five years. But are people leaving their jobs for a much better prospect, only to go back to an old employer?

The pandemic was something none of us expected, and once the dust settled and our working from home routine was cemented, it was then that workers began looking for new opportunities. But why have so many employees moved around during the pandemic?

The interview process has changed significantly over the last two years. In fact, many interviews, even for hybrid or on-site roles, are still conducted virtually, meaning it can be difficult to get a feel for the company and its culture until you start working there.

Connor Campbell, business expert at NerdWallet, says, “Culture is incredibly difficult to get right in this new world. The habits built up over the pandemic have proven tricky to shake, causing people to work alone even when on-site, surrounded by other people.  . Relationships can therefore be harder to form with colleagues, resulting in workers operating in silos. This means company values and culture can often be diluted, making it tougher for employees to connect with the business as a whole.”

There are, of course, pressures on finances, too, with the cost of living crisis. Research suggests that almost half of businesses do not plan on giving employees pay rises this year, despite inflation expected to hit double digits over the coming months. But by moving to another role, potentially a more senior one, workers may be able to negotiate a higher salary.

But the financial benefits don’t always just benefit employees; employers can feel the benefit of hiring back an old employee.

It’s estimated that it costs £3,000 to hire and onboard a new employee, whereas employees who have already worked for a company generally need less onboarding in terms of system training, company learnings, and organisational structure. They can often get straight into work with less intros and time spent getting them up to speed than an entirely new member of staff.

However, Pam Hinds, Head of HR at staff management software provider RotaCloud, spoke to NerdWallet, and said, “There are benefits to rehiring a former employee. They may have left initially for legitimate reasons, they might have gained more skills and experience during their time away, and it’s often easier, and cheaper, to onboard someone that already knows the business. But there are also things to be aware of. They may have left for a negative reason, and even if they didn’t, you can’t assume that they’re the same person that they were when they left.

“It’s also important to take into account how other members of the team might react. Especially if the boomerang employee is returning in a more senior position and/or has management responsibilities over their former peers. Employees that have stayed with you may feel resentment or that their loyalty isn’t valued.”

Connor, added, “Hiring managers should think carefully about taking on any previous employees, at any stage, and only do so if it fits their business plan and they believe they can positively add to their team – and not just because they are struggling to hire or are looking to fill a gap.”

So if you’re leaving a company, how is best to ensure the door is open? Pam Hinds, Head of HR at staff management software provider RotaCloud, spoke to NerdWallet, and gives this advice, “Make sure you leave on good terms. This means following the businesses exit procedures (like giving the correct amount of notice), and not coasting through your notice period.

“Also, if there’s an exit interview, make sure it’s constructive. Don’t just focus on any negatives you might’ve experienced, reflect on the positives that you’ve taken from the company and the role too.”

“Changing jobs is not unusual,” says Connor. “The average UK worker has 12 jobs in their lifetime, so in general, we’re used to shifting roles every couple of years. However, you never know what your new job is going to look like. The company culture could not fit your lifestyle, while the perks and benefits could change – so too could what you see as a priority. .  It’s worth thinking long-term, as well as short-term about what is, and will be, important to you going forward, as well as where you want to take your career.”

I left my job of four years, but returned after five months – I’ve now got a new-found appreciation for my job!

Scott James, 28, from Leeds did just that. After leaving a role he’d been in for four years in September 2021, he moved to another company. But soon realised it wasn’t the right move. But luckily for him, the door was still firmly open.

“I first moved to my job in marketing in summer 2017, so by the time I left last year, I had been fully cemented into the company and the role for a long time. Although I enjoyed my job, I always wanted to try my hand at project management, but I didn’t think that my experience would lead to a job in that field. So when I was offered a project manager role, I was thrilled and knew I had to take it – despite being somewhat settled in my job.”

“When I left, I kept on good terms with the management team, as well as stayed close to ex colleagues who had become friends (a couple even had bets on how long it would be until I was back). And despite being sad to leave, I was excited to start a new career in a global company. But after the first couple of weeks, I realised that the role wasn’t what I hoped for; the culture was much more corporate to what I was used to, and the challenge I was so excited to take on wasn’t really there.”

“My old manager messaged me a couple of times asking how I was getting on, and telling me the door would always be open. And despite being determined to stick with my decision, after a couple of months of realising it just wasn’t for me, I decided to make a pros and cons list of each role. And my old job came out on top. So I bit the bullet and spoke to my old manager about going back.”

Scott started back at his previous company after five months. And even though it didn’t work out, he’s glad he made the move. “I’m glad I did it – it gave me a newfound appreciation for the job I have now, and has given me that fire in my belly back for the role and company I work for. I gained exposure to a couple of new ways of working, and was able to refine my presentation skills, which come in handy. So all in all, I think I’m a better employee for leaving and coming back. I also got a bit of a salary bump, too, so that was a nice bonus.”

Connor, added, “There will always be a settling in period when it comes to a new job, so it’s important to give it a chance to get to grips with the role, the company and get to know new colleagues. However, once the dust has settled, and you’re used to new ways of working, if you feel you’re still not happy, it could be time to think about your options. And more recently, going back to an old job is a viable option for many.”

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