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Boomerangs Are Returning: Catch 'Em If You Can!

Today’s post comes to us from the Executive Director of The Workforce Institute, Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

We’ve been talking a lot about our new study — “Resign, Resigned, or Re-Sign?” — which analyzes whether pandemic-era job leavers are having second thoughts about their decisions. According to the survey, 43% of workers who left now say they were better off at their previous jobs, which amounts to more than 15 million people who’ve resigned during the Great Resignation.

Though we may be tired of hearing the term “Great Resignation” (including yours truly), that doesn’t mean people have stopped turning in their resignations. In fact, people continue to leave employers in record numbers.

According to the March 2022 Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 4.5 million workers quit in March. But, to paraphrase a certain adage, with great resignations come great opportunities.

Today, let’s talk about the “re-sign” part of our study: boomerangs. As the name suggests, boomerangs are employees who leave a company, only to eventually return — sometimes, in as little as a few months or even a few weeks. Our research found that nearly one in five workers worldwide have already boomeranged back to a job they left during the pandemic, and 41% would be open to a return if it were an option.

This concept of boomerang employees isn’t new. In fact, The Workforce Institute studied boomerangs back in 2015. However, our latest research has uncovered a change of heart. Not in those who boomerang, but those who welcome them back with open arms.

One of the stats from our new study that didn’t end up in the final report (with so much insightful data, it was challenging to narrow it down!) is that: 65% of surveyed managers say they would accept back top and moderate performers, and 16% would hire back everyone, regardless of skill level.

The key here is that it’s not just the highest performers finding their ways back to previous employers. More and more companies are opening up to the idea of accepting more and more boomerangs.

This is another indicator of the real staffing challenges employers face today, as workers leave in droves and workforce activity reports show signs of economic distress. Employers have lots of jobs that need to be filled — and quickly — so why not look to the most familiar (and certainly qualified) workers first? Assuming the employee left on good terms, it’s worth at least considering them again for the role.

After all, boomerangs make sense from a business standpoint. More familiarity with the position and company means less training necessary, which means greater productivity levels at a faster rate. And for those who think boomerangs can create awkward auras in the workplace or negatively impact culture (“If they left once, who’s to say they wouldn’t leave again?”), consider the positive side of this situation: An employee left, sampled what else was out there, and then still wanted to come back. That’s actually an endorsement of your company.

A final word of caution: it’s still a candidate’s market. Don’t expect an employee to just come boomeranging back on their own. Make the first move by reaching out about a potential return. Doing so helps the former employee feel more valued. Also, be prepared to offer incentives, such as greater flexibility, a raise, or a signing bonus. If there’s a specific reason they left in the first place, hear them out and do what you can to make changes. Working to repair existing cracks in the bridge can help ensure they stay for good this time.

Download the full “Resign, Resigned, or Re-Sign?” study, and be sure to keep it here at The Workforce Institute for plenty more analysis of this report. On Thursday, we’ll explore how to drive employee retention amid the Great Resignation!

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