The grass isn’t always greener: The rise in the ‘boomerang’ employee

During the pandemic, there was a surge in professionals who changed jobs in what became known as the “Great Resignation.” Now some regret it.

A new survey of professionals who have recently changed jobs found 48% would consider returning to their former employee — up 8% from a similar survey last year. The survey was conducted by staffing firm Robert Half.

“What we’re finding in recent times is that people are finding the grass is not greener on the other side, and that their former employer was a better fit for them,” said Trey Barnette, regional vice president for Robert Half in D.C.

“It’s the culture. It’s the work environment that’s not conducive to the person’s personal and professional goals. They find that maybe the manager they were working for was the better fit for them,” he said.

For employers, there are advantages to re-hiring a former employee who left on good terms. They already know the job, and training new employees is a big investment for organizations, which is not necessary for a boomerang employee. They are motivated to return and will hit the ground running.

That does not mean a former employee is completely plug-in ready, especially if things have changed since they left, such as new processes, policies, people and company objectives.

Robert Half suggests employers let departing employees know the door remains open. They should offer to be a good reference if appropriate, which leaves a lasting impression on departing employees. And, they should stay in touch with former employees through networking sites, such as LinkedIn.

But before considering re-hiring a former employee, the hiring manager should not hesitate to contact their most recent employer to find out why the relationship did not work out, just as they would with any other candidate. Robert Half said there may be more to the story than the former employee conveys.

The employer also needs to consider how the current staff will react to re-hiring their former colleague.

“There could be potential backlash from other staff members, especially if responsibilities have shifted or current employees were passed over for promotions. I would invite feedback. Talk to the team about it, so you can address those concerns,” Barnette said.

If re-hiring a former employee at a higher salary than they had before, Robert Half said the organization should confirm everyone on the team is earning appropriate compensation.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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