More people are going back to work for employers they previously left as their chances of nabbing higher pay and better jobs elsewhere have fallen in the last year. The share of workers boomeranging back to past employers hit 2% this year after hovering around 1.7% for the past eight years, according to a report out this week from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team.
Such employees can actually prove highly valuable to companies, as those workers are more familiar with the organization and culture and likely need less training than those completely fresh to the firm. They also often return with new perspectives, having had more varied experiences elsewhere in their industries. But their willingness to return all depends on how they felt when they left.
“People are least likely to consider going back if they felt burnt out, under-appreciated or underpaid,” said Jamie Kohn, a senior research director in Gartner’s human resource practice, adding, “They are thinking differently now about the place that work has in their life, and we’ve seen an epidemic of burnout over the last few years,” she added.
Gartner looked into boomerang employees too in a survey among over 3,000 job seekers worldwide, finding 35% would be interested in hearing from a previous employer about open roles. About the same amount said they’d be interested in joining an alumni network.
Those considering returning to past employers had more positive perceptions of them, most often citing sentiments like “I felt energized by my job”, “I was confident in the future success of my employer,” and “I was proud to work for my employer,” according to that survey.
They also gave conditions that would make them want to return, saying they’d be most likely to do so if they felt their past employer could offer better work-life balance than their current or other prospective employers. They’d also go back if they thought they could offer more interesting projects, more paid leave and more flexibility in where to work, that survey found.
On average, it takes about four years for someone to boomerang back to a past employer, according to the LinkedIn report.
“They want to know that when they come back to a previous organization, they’re coming into a role that is right for where they are in their career,” Kohn said.
The industry with the highest rate of boomerang employees in LinkedIn’s report was government administration, where 3.2% of those who left later returned, followed by education, at 3%.
While LinkedIn doesn’t have specific data addressing why that’s the case, “there seems to be a consensus among workers on LinkedIn that government roles provide a sense of stability and tend to offer good benefits, which attracts many workers,” a LinkedIn spokesperson said in an email.
“I think people return to government work for stability and benefits. In today’s uncertain economy, private sector work can be fickle. The government provides a stable (albeit underpaid) environment to work and grow,” one LinkedIn member commented on a post of the analysis.
People can spend those years doing a variety of things before coming back, like experiencing a life event making them unable to work. Many also stay in their industry but simply take a job with another employer.
“Many workers find that the best way to get a raise and a promotion is to expand their experience and their knowledge, and often the best way to do that is by switching companies,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.
“Often you become more valuable to your existing employer once you’ve worked at a competitor and once you’ve seen how other companies do things,” she said.
Sometimes boomerang employees also leave a certain industry due to economic conditions that make their job more difficult or harder for them to get raises and promotions in that role for an extended period. “Sometimes people do leave jobs when the industry is under pressure, and then return when it’s a better time for the industry,” Pollak said.