Why staff are returning to old employers sooner than expected
Dave Savage looks at one of the less expected secondary effects of the ‘Great Resignation’.
Why You Should Care
The pandemic has added to the pressures placed on ‘young’ professionals reaching a crossroads in their career, and the term ‘boomeranger’ is increasingly taking on a new meaning.
This dynamic is driving new behaviors from talent teams across the industry. Discover more about this future trend here.
‘Boomeranging’ is the latest phenomenon to disturb the behavior of candidates and talent acquisition teams. So why are people leaving their jobs only to return a short time later? And how can organizations spare themselves additional costs by holding onto their talent in the first place?
Boomeranger (noun) – In Western culture young adults graduating high school and college in the 21st century, so named for the percentage of whom choose to share a home with their parents having previously lived alone, thus ‘boomeranging’ back to their parents’ residence.
Generation rent, cheugy, echo boomers, sometimes woke, and maybe a snowflake. Millennials (and to a lesser extent Gen Z) have an array of terms attached to them, and the Boomeranger can be added to the list. Many are a reflection of the changing environment in which we (I was born in 1984) live.
Housing stock is depleted, culture wars grip the news cycle, and jobs are in short supply whilst the notion of a ‘job for life’ died some time ago.
The pandemic has added to the pressures placed on ‘young’ professionals reaching a crossroads in their career, and the term ‘boomeranger’ is increasingly taking on a new meaning. A worker who boomerangs back to the comforts of an ex-employer.
Why? What is happening in the employment market to drive this desire to reach for familiarity in the work environment?
Workers are increasingly looking for new opportunities
After two years of the world living with COVID-19, Workhuman conducted a survey assessing the state of human connections in the workplace, with over 2,200 people taking part.
The survey demonstrated that the job market is highly volatile. More than a third of workers are seeking a new job within a year.
The pandemic has clearly had an impact. Rewind to the back-end of 2019 and only 21% were looking for a role in the next 12-month period, significantly lower than the 36% Workhuman surveyed in late 2021. When you single out the millennials (defined here as employees between the ages of 25 and 40) that number jumps to almost half (47%).
If we place ourselves back at our kitchen table in mid-2020, it’s not hard to understand how people are feeling. Workhuman’s study points to an increased workload, a disintegration of work support networks, and a lack of faith in the stability of their organization’s business. I imagine most readers shared one or more of these perceptions as civil and working restrictions tightened.
So is human connection really driving the career choices of employees in 2022? Perhaps not.
Money (still) talks
The top reason a worker might boomerang is money. That’s then followed (in decreasing significance) by benefits, meaningful work, former colleagues, and culture. The cuddly stuff (meaningful work, former colleagues, and culture) combined is only equal to the pull of what you take home in your back pocket; 39% combined versus 38%.
The reality facing leaders is it costs twice as much to replace an employee with someone new, and there is the added benefit that a boomeranger might bring new skills back with them.
This dynamic is driving new behaviors from talent teams across the industry. Andy Heyes, managing director of Harvey Nash’s recruitment business was clear to emphasize the importance of alumni to enterprise organizations.
“You might expect trust and relationships, especially in uncertain times, to be the driving factors behind the job market. But stats suggest money is the key factor.”
You need to build your alumni talent pools
With this in mind, businesses are turning to alumni networks to find an edge, especially where competitive cost is involved.
Heyes continues: “Across contingent and permanent recruitment, the focus has been on direct sourcing. Organizations are building alumni talent pools where they can offer direct access to job opportunities, a quicker ‘time to hire’, and crucially a better candidate experience. With money having more of an impact on candidate decision-making than we expected, alumni networks can provide talent teams with some relief.”
Whilst money is important, you certainly don’t want to create the impression that happiness is secondary – the reasons for boomeranging are complex. But, the strongest argument for the importance of happiness is in creating a work environment that stops that member of staff considering leaving in the first place.
Is the grass always greener? Make sure your teams don’t feel inclined to ask
I started this piece by evoking the perceived ‘flaky’ attitude of millennials, the chief boomerang candidate. What you can hopefully see is that this is a complex picture that talent teams need to have an action plan in place for.
“People don’t tend to leave jobs when they’re happy,” Workhuman’s Director of Talent Acquisition David Burke stresses.
“Essentially people are more connected to their colleagues than the business; people are your culture.”
His advice extends to the need to thank, talk and celebrate your staff. It is important to view your business as a society that allows people to call out thanks for their colleagues. To do that you need to map your processes to your culture and ensure people feel appreciated.
“We know these actions lead to increased productivity and talent retention because people feel celebrated and like they belong,” says Burke.
What are the next steps?
So what can we take away from observing the boomerang trend?
Firstly, whilst the cuddly stuff matters less when trying to re-engage with former employees, the power of happiness cannot be overstated in its ability to save you from trying to rekindle that flame with your former colleagues in the first place. Finding tools that help measure and engage interaction with your teams is crucial.
Secondly, if you do lose your teams to competition the most cost-effective, and potentially productive use of your time is in strengthening your engagement with your alumni, and building these talent pools.
Group Technology Evangelist
Dave makes podcasts, hosts video debates, speaks and moderates at conferences and chairs key-note stages.