Text message. It’s the ex.

Heart’s pounding.

They want to talk.

What do we do?

Businesses are having to ask themselves this very question in 2023 amidst a wave of “boomerang employees”. The term, coined by global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, refers to those wishing to return to their former employers and explore opportunities within their old stomping grounds.

At the back end of the pandemic, businesses struggled to retain staff as employees re-evaluated what they wanted from their working lives. After 2 (long) years of disruption, home schooling and Microsoft Teams, many within the workforce felt burnt out and were ready for a change. This was the catalyst for what became known as ‘The Great Resignation’ with record numbers of employees leaving their jobs in search of roles providing more balanced post-pandemic lifestyles. However, according to Robert Walters, we are now seeing the first signs of the ‘The Great Regret’ with nearly three quarters of professionals hoping to return to their pre-Covid employer.

So, do we delete the message and hit the block button? Or do we think of boomerang hires strategically and incorporate into our talent acquisition strategies? While it’s understandable that managers may be reluctant to hire former employees, there can be many reasons why a former colleague might look to re-join an organisation and many benefits of them doing so. We shouldn’t shun them for having found out that, perhaps, the grass isn’t always greener, and instead should support their return to the business as well as looking to build on foundations that might inspire others to do the same. Boomerang employees are:

The holy grail in terms of ‘bang for buck’

Rehiring old employees can increase productivity and reduce training costs. Providing that they were a valuable team member the first time around, you should expect more of the same, but with additional insight and experience that comes from having been exposed to other cultures, working practices and models.

Good for morale

Not only does rehiring employees allow former colleagues to pick up where they left off, but it also demonstrates that you’ve a positive and nurturing culture, welcoming back those who make a positive contribution to the business. More, returning staff help with retention as they show current colleagues that they’re part of a great team – why go anywhere else?

Helping minimise recruitment costs

82% of those surveyed by Robert Walters stated that they had kept in touch with their former managers with a quarter of these respondents admitting that they’d reached out in the past year for job opportunities. Keeping up relationships with former hires as they progress through their career helps you to build future talent pipelines. In effect, your managers can become your talent acquisition team with eyes and ears in the market watching out for potential moves.

Interested in culture

In response to the ‘The Great Resignation’, employers scrambled to offer higher salaries and make their roles ultra-flexible in efforts to attract and retain staff. While it’s still important to be competitive and have adult conversations about flexibility, the ‘boomerang employee’ has shown us that these components, ultimately, aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to retention. As important, is the culture within your organisation and being proactive about building and reinforcing this culture.

So, getting back with your ex might not be such a bad thing. In fact, used correctly, boomerangs might keep you topped up with experienced talent year after year.

Disclaimer: I’m not recommending that you get back with your actual ex. You’re right, they were probably crazy.

Until next time.