21 March 2023

Still Looking for Employees? Try Boomerangs

The American employer is in a tough spot.  When the pandemic hit, many employers were forced to close their doors—some permanently.  Then, the end of lockdowns also signaled the beginning of the Great Resignation.  Indeed, in 2021, about 47 million workers quit their jobs.  2022 was no better, as about 4 million workers quit in December, bringing the total for the year to about 50 million.  Adding to employer stress is nearly a year (and counting) of recession hand­-wringing.  And, yes, there have been high­-profile layoffs in the tech industry.  Still, job growth in other areas continues to surprise despite the federal government’s efforts to control inflation.  Many employers soldier on as their “Help Wanted” postings go unanswered, or answered by unqualified applicants.  What’s a business to do?

The answer might be found in former employees who quit during the Great Resignation.  According to a recent Paychex survey, approximately 80% of employees who left their job during the Great Resignation now regret that decision.  The age group most likely to feel that way?  Gen-Z.  Boomerang employees may be exactly what struggling employers need to reach full capacity.  Indeed, roughly two-thirds of employees surveyed said they tried to get their old jobs back.  And about one-third of employers surveyed said they would not hire boomerang employees.

Of course, employers who consider hiring boomerang employees may have concerns about whether those employees will leave again.  That’s justified.  To avoid that result, it’s important to consider why employees left in the first place.  Simply put, the pandemic created significant opportunities for upward mobility, higher wages, and remote work flexibility.  Additionally, according to Pew Research Center, 57% of those who left their job reported that they felt disrespected at work.  It might be no surprise, then, that those surveyed by Paychex and who returned to their former jobs reported new benefits upon their return.  38% gained remote work options, 34% were given flexible scheduling, and 24% received bonus incentives.

The bad news is that there isn’t a silver bullet solution.  But the good news is that employer strategies to retain current employees are also likely to appeal to boomerang employees—after all, once back on-board, boomerang employees are current employees.  So, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  Some great benefits for employees include remote work, flex hours, designated vacation time, four-day work weeks, lower expectations for work outside business hours, EAP, and affinity groups.  Employees who feel disrespected may instead feel appreciated through milestone celebrations, rewards for excellent performance, ongoing training and development opportunities, and opportunities for employees to voice their opinions about business operations.

At the end of the day, employees who leave employment might be easier to persuade to come back than completely new hires.  After all, potential boomerang employees have already spent time to get to know their previous workplace, build relationships with co-workers, and create other bonds that make re-integration easy.  There isn’t a guarantee a boomerang employee won’t leave again.  But that’s true of all employees.  Employers who struggle to fill open positions may find exactly what they need by reaching out to former employees.


Contact the author Adam Walker.