Story after story at the moment is focused on just how many employees are quitting, and for good reason. With the Great Resignation in full swing, employers are wondering what’s driving people to quit, what they can do to hang onto their people, and if things will ever get back to normal.
But hidden behind the record numbers of people quitting is another quieter phenomenon bosses should also be aware of, according to a new report by Insider’s Aki Ito. Some of the employees who said sayonara to their jobs back at the beginning of the Great Resignation are now quietly returning to their previous employers. Bosses should consider welcoming these “boomerang employees” back with open arms.
Why you should be extra nice to departing employees right now
For her deep dive into the new trend, Ito talks to Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Texas A&M who was prescient in predicting the current surge of resignations. “We’re going to see lots of ‘boomerang’ employees, who a year from now miss their jobs and decide their novel isn’t going as well as expected,” Klotz now believes.
The article digs into why many employees may consider a return to their previous jobs (in short, they were burnt out and just needed a break or mistook the general stagnation of the pandemic for a stalled career) but the most important takeaway for bosses might be Klotz’s comments on how to handle resignations.
Desperate bosses might take on just about anyone willing to work at the moment, but Klotz insists welcoming back boomerang employees is a particularly smart move. “Selecting employees is really, really hard to do,” Klotz explains (and Nobel laureates confirm). “And nobody’s that good at it, because I can’t see whether you’re going to be a good worker or not. With boomerang employees, I’ve seen you work, so the risk of the selection process goes way down.”
But if you’re going to have an open-door policy for returnees, that should also impact how you handle resignations, Klotz argues. “For starters, he suggests companies make their off-boarding — things like the exit interview — as pleasant as the onboarding,” Ito notes. Companies should also take a page out the playbook of management consultancies and make a point of being nice to departing employees.
“They understand that the quitters might one day become their clients; many even host networking gatherings for alumni,” explains Ito. That might be a step too far for many smaller businesses but there’s nothing stopping you from checking in with your former employees just to test the waters as long as they left on good terms.
“When you get to a new job, there’s a honeymoon period,” Klotz explains. “And then there’s often a hangover period. If my old company called me in those weak moments, I’d probably be like, ‘You’ll take me right back? OK!'”
The bottom line here is that you may not have seen the last of your resigning employees. So even if you’re upset to see an A-player walk out the door, hide that feeling and wish them well. They just might come back to you as a boomerang employee if you treat them right on their way out.