Many people left their workplaces after Covid struck in search of better job opportunities, however, their leap did not result in a better experience for all of them.
In 2022, where the disruption of the pandemic is looking to dissipate, the expectation of the workforce is also evolving. Looking at companies that are more adaptable, agile, spontaneous, unified, meaningful, and certainly more human, there is a discernible increase in the so-called ‘boomerang employees’, who are wanting to return to a company after leaving it.
A boomerang employee is a worker who quits his job and is rehired later in his old company to work in the same or different position.
‘The boomerang effect’ in employment is fast catching up in the corporate world with both employers and employees finding it a win-win.
As per a recent survey by UKG, a global provider of human capital management (HCM), payroll, HR service delivery and workforce management solutions, more than 2 out of 5 employees worldwide feel they were better off at their old job, finding many of the same issues at their new company with none of the familiar faces and routines. In fact, 1 in 5 have already boomeranged back to their prior company, with millions more open to the possibility of return, adds the report titled 'Resign, Resigned, or Re-Sign?'
Why do employees go back to their previous employers?
Ranjini Chakraborty, director HR Giesecke & Devrient MS India, says that once an employee leaves an organisation, the quest starts both ways. An organisation is trying to attract and replace talent while trying to do things differently to retain others; on the other hand, the employee begins to evaluate their options, opportunities and choices, understanding what worked, will work, hasn't worked, or won't work in future.
As per Chakraborty, expectation mismatch, work content, work culture, flexible working conditions and learning opportunities are some of the key reasons for employees to return to old employers and organisations.
“While the employees think that the grass is greener on the other side, sometimes there are expectation mismatches with the new company. Other reasons like poor culture fit or the benefits of working conditions do not measure up for employees and therefore, the return. In some other cases, leaving a job happens even without a new opportunity or job in hand. So, they return to seize their position in old roles,” she adds.
Many employees left their prior workplaces during the Covid-19 pandemic in search of opportunities they believed would give them more autonomy, more money, or new experiences.
“However, along with a friendly and meaningful work culture, meeting their unique employment needs and the sense of inclusivity, they realised they were also missing the lunch place around the corner, their co-workers down the hall, and even their supervisors who appreciated and rewarded their contributions to the business,” says Anjali Byce, chief human resources officer at STL.
STL’s recent eNPS Pulse check conducted by a third party, indicated that 95% of employees that exited STL over the past four months have expressed an interest to join back with 5% of them wanting to join at the earliest; within two months.
Employees who left for ‘greener pastures’ with unrealistic increases in compensation have realised that merely having a high package does not engage them for long.
“Since they joined their new employers during Covid-19 and were essentially working remotely – they have found it difficult to navigate the enterprise and have been unable to build strong bonds. They may also feel left out as compared to employees who were there in the organisation before Covid-19. It also makes them crave for all that they enjoyed in their previous teams – the quality of work, team bonding, team culture, etc. Since many of them have kept in touch with their previous managers or team members – they find it easy to approach them when they find a suitable role,” says Deepak Dobriyal, senior vice president, HR, Birlasoft.
Why should boomerang employees be welcomed back?
It's always a welcome back for old employees, as the boomerang culture has its distinct advantages.
First, the joining probability of boomerang employees is very high compared to those joining for the first time, thus reducing the risk of offer dropouts at the last minute in the present ‘war of talent’ that the companies are engaged in.
“It is comparatively easy for them to hit the ground running as they know the enterprise and the work well. The chances of them integrating successfully into the team are almost certain. You can skip a lot of the onboarding when your new hire is really a former employee. Most importantly, the returning employee may provide a fresh perspective on operations. In terms of costs, boomerangs cost less in onboarding and training than new hires,” says Dobriyal.
Chakraborty says rehiring an old employee saves recruitment costs and training costs among others. “At the same time, organisations also evaluate the intent of the ex-employee who wishes to join back. If an ex-employee fits the skill, competence and culture, I am sure organisations are always elated to have them back in the force.”
Rehires bring special skills and experiences that can be very valuable to a company, adds Byce.
“For instance, their time away often enables them to pick alternate or adjacent skills and capabilities that ‘build a new muscle’. Additionally, it gives them a fresh perspective on applying the same for an enhanced impact. The invaluable insights of a boomerang employee can give a team the drive it needs to innovate and scale with speed,” she says.
“Quite a few boomerang employees have returned to STL in recent years and it is heartening to see employees leverage their skills and apply their unlearning and upskilling to accelerate STL’s growth journey. The opportunity to work with colleagues, in a ‘known’ work culture, processes and colleagues helps amplify the impact,” she adds.
While welcoming boomerang employees is advantageous to the firm, it is also important that the employers discuss and address the reasons that made them leave the company in the first place.
“There are also some instances where Boomerang hiring fails, mainly concerning salary. Pay fixation is very important in this process, employers need to do the right salary benchmarking in order to reap the benefits of boomerang hiring,” says Aditya Narayan Mishra, managing director and CEO, CIEL HR Services.
An employee might return to the previous employer for various reasons such as unclear job expectations in the new job, toxic work culture, and might be in dire need to find another job. Although they are thankful for the job, if the pay boomerang employees receive when returning is not on par with their previous pay, they might feel exploited and demotivated in a few months.
“This will ultimately impact the firm’s employer brand. But if the employer pays more than the rest of the team members to hire this employee back, the team might not be welcoming to this employee because of the pay disparity and their loyalty to the company might reduce. Hence, extra care should be taken when deciding on the salary of boomerang employees,” he adds.
Dobriyal too warns about the downside.
While hiring a boomerang employee, the enterprise must ensure that the employee is returning for the right reasons, he says.
“They may come back at higher salaries which can cause concerns with other team members. The enterprise must not make significant exceptions on salary or grade, as it may upset the existing team dynamics. Most importantly, they must be assigned challenging roles,” he adds.