In fact, it’s not a fun sporting perk offered by tech companies eager to keep up with the latest trends in compensation, but “job boomeranging” is actually an emerging trend in the workplace. In a nutshell, it is when a former employee returns to a previous employer.
The trend has been observed by experts such as Anthony C. Klotz, associate professor of management at the UCL School of Management in London; Klotz is also responsible for coining the term, the “great resignation.”
One trend complements the other. The large cohort of layoffs has left their jobs en masse during the pandemic: 47 million American workers will quit their jobs in 2021. In France, layoffs peaked towards the end of 2021 and in the UK job-to-job movement was at an all-time high between October and December 2021 as workers looked for a better work-life balance, more money or a step up the career ladder.
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Boomerangers, on the other hand, are part of a new movement dubbed the “Big Regret.”
Endless columns have been touting the benefits of making a career move in recent years, and anecdotal evidence of that friend-of-a-friend who did it and never looked back also helped make a compelling case. Research also supported workers’ motivations for quitting their jobs and looking elsewhere. According to Pew research center60% of workers who switched jobs saw their real income rise.
For many employees, for example those who may have been rolling along in “quiet stop” mode, or anyone who really felt it was time to change careers, the change has turned out to be positive.
But there is a significant cohort of people for whom that job change has not gone as planned.
UKG, a workforce management platform, conducted a survey in six countries in 2022. The company compared the reactions of 1,950 employees who have left their jobs since March 2020 with the reactions of people managers who have let people on their team leave.
Forty-one percent of people felt they were quitting their old job too soon, and 43% of job providers admitted they were better off in their old job. Of those who didn’t quite feel their new position, 62% agreed that their old job was, in fact, superior.
So can you ever go back? Management professor Michael A. Campion looked at boomerang workers for a research paper titled “Welcome back? Job performance and turnover of Boomerang employees compared to internal and external employees,” in the Management magazine.
“However, in an era where the average employee will work for many different employers during their career, organizations are more open to rehiring former employees,” says Campion.
There is some evidence that employers were more lenient about this even before Covid-19. A 2015 study commissioned by The Labor Institute showed a changing mindset around re-hires. At the time, 76% of HR professionals said they were more accepting of hiring boomerang employees than before.
In 2019, more than 10% of Recruiting from Microsoft were boomerangs, and at LinkedIn in the UK, 5% of all new hires in 2021 were actually former employees returning to the company.
“Hiring former employees, who are a well-known entity, is considered less risky than hiring new employees. They are also familiar with the job, understand the culture and values of the organization and may have relationships with existing employees,” explains Campion.
However, Boomerang employees often fail to excel when returning to a former employer. “The results suggest that boomerang managers’ performance often stays the same after they’re rehired,” he says.
So how can you make sure you get rehired at your old company and boomerang back to your happy place? The first thing to do for the future is to always keep things cordial. Leaving your old job on good terms is the most important factor in being able to go back as a new hire, so be careful about sending critical emails for all hands, for example.
You will soon notice if your new role and company are not a good fit: the company culture is not right, the job did not go as planned, or you are not getting along with your new boss. If that’s the case, and you don’t see yourself staying in your new position long term, please contact your old manager or the recruiting team to check in. You want to get an idea of the nature of the country; if your contact is well received, and from there you can open a wider dialogue.
If you still have a close relationship with your previous boss, schedule a lunch or coffee break. Tell them what’s going on and explore if there’s any possibility for you to return.
It’s normal to panic and want to go back to what you know. But also ask yourself some tough questions. Do you want to return because it is an easy option? Think about your previous experience with the company – and what motivated you to leave in the first place.
Before you accept an offer to boomerang back, make sure you’re given the opportunity to progress, prove yourself, and grow your career.
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