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The boomerang employees: the art of coming back

Companies around the world and across almost every industry are experiencing severe talent shortages. Two-thirds of HR professionals report welcoming back people who had left the company previously. And, in most cases, this return to a familiar role or organisation is a success. These boomerang employees move back for a huge number of reasons. Maybe a new company didn’t deliver on its promises, a previous employer couldn’t replace their skills and enticed them back with better pay or benefits, or they genuinely missed the culture and values of a company they had left behind.

What can go wrong?

Of course, not everyone who wants to “boomerang” back will be a good fit. If an exit was particularly difficult or acrimonious then it might simply be a bad idea for everyone involved. Sometimes it’s impossible for an employee to recapture what they loved about a role or organisation because the company has moved on or evolved in a different direction. Going back for the wrong reasons can simply lead to another exit in the near future. But if a toxic boss or situation has been removed or an employee can bring in valuable skills or ideas, there can still be a positive outcome from a difficult departure.

What do the experts say?

Many HR professionals give priority to people who have been part of their organisation previously and see “comebacks” as bringing with them some big benefits. These boomerang employees already have a deep understanding of a company’s culture and values, can adapt to roles more quickly than complete newcomers, and are often more likely to stay for the long term after realising the grass isn’t greener elsewhere. However, it’s very important to tackle the reasons that an employee left previously and ensure that these problems or challenges have been addressed. If you fail to understand why someone left your business, you’re likely to relive the experience all over again in a few months. Some organisations are even actively inviting talent back, and, with a severe talent shortage impacting companies everywhere, it seems like this trend is set to grow. The most effective comebacks are mutual agreements that enable company values and employee expectations to find a balance.

What do boomerang employees say?

Here is how some real-life boomerang employees describe their experience:

“I worked too much and didn’t feel my work was appreciated. An ex-colleague organised an interview at my company’s competitor and after an initial discussion I decided that I should make a change – everything seemed to be “better” than at my company. I spoke to my boss and told him I was tired and I needed a change to find the real me, to find a purpose in what I was doing. At my farewell party, my boss said – please come back, we will wait for you. I came back after 6 months. No one said a word. I have got a higher position and better pay. It was a great experience, and now I am very loyal to my company”

(J., Finance Industry)

“I had a toxic boss – she was single, no family, no kids and she simply didn’t understand people with families and kids, her only passion was to please her boss and she would have walked over dead bodies to make that happen. For many years I worked with a completely different person – balanced and wise – but he left and after some time I followed him. But this new company wanted to build a new structure and they cut my position after just 3 months. I was desperate when my colleague from my previous job called me and said that the toxic lady left. I applied for her position and got it! And after a couple of months, I managed to bring two other colleagues back to the company who left at the same time as me for the same reasons. Now we’re a great team in a good company!”

(A., Marketing)

To come back or not to come back?

Personal and professional values are more important than ever before. And people are building their careers in different ways, seeking a range of experiences rather than a linear career path. They may ask for more but are often ready to bring more to the company they support in return. For both employers and employees, this circular relationship can provide a valuable opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow – sometimes a step back really can feel like a leap forward.

Are you ready to come back as an employee?

Are you ready to welcome back as an employer?