Almost three-quarters of professionals (71%) have stated that they are open to returning to their pre-Covid employer.

Half admit that the reasons why they left are no longer applicable in today’s market.

According to a recent poll from recruiter Robert Walters (of 3,000 professionals), 45 percent of workers who had left their job after lockdown did so for better pay – with a further 35 percent leaving for a better workplace culture or more purpose/fulfilment in their role.

Fast-forward two years later and 48 percent of professionals admit that their current employer is no longer meeting their needs – with a third stating the cost-of-living crisis and hybrid-working fatigue (24%) has changed how they feel about their most recent employment situation.

Keeping a foot in the door 

A staggering 82 percent of those surveyed admitted to staying in some form of contact with a previous manager – with almost a third stating that this was for the primary purpose of keeping the door open for future job opportunities (29%).

In fact – a quarter of professionals have admitted to reaching out to a previous employer in the past year regarding job opportunities, with a further 11 percent stating that they have not done it yet but intend too this year.

Less than one in five employees have completely shut the door on previous employers, with 18 percent stating that they keep zero contact with their previous manager.

Toby Fowlston – CEO of global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters comments: 

“The post-pandemic bounce back saw record numbers of employees leave their job in what was billed as ‘The Great Resignation.’ However, our research indicates the first signs of ‘The Great Regret’ – with 71 percent of professionals stating that they would like to return to their pre-Covid employer, a mere 18 months after leaving.

“Across 2021 we saw record pay rises offered to professionals, with promises of an uber flexible and hybrid culture. Come 2023, and these pay rises now pale in comparison to the rising cost of living and inflation – with those new starters who were offered inflated salaries being much less likely to have received a pay increase this year. It appears that workers are realising that the grass may not have been greener after all.”

Managers hesitant 

Whilst the sentiment may be there from professionals, it seems the same cannot be said for managers – in fact 44 percent admit to being hesitant in allowing an old employee back into the team, with just a fifth stating that they would only consider it if they had been an ‘exceptional employee.’

Toby adds:

“I’m afraid managers/employers need to swallow their pride here. Whilst the global recruitment market has slowed slightly in 2023, candidate shortages continue – and so the fact there is a pool of talent open to re-joining business should excite leaders.

“Not only that but this is talent that can hit the ground running – they have already been inducted into your business, they will be familiar with processes, and have a previous vested interest in the brand – all qualities which can take years to instil in a new employee.

“In light of this research not only should companies who are looking to hire consider reengaging with alumni, but they should also look to train managers on holding a positive exit process as ‘boomerang employees’ could well be a solution to skills shortage.

“A key thing for employers is to manage the return of boomerang employees amongst existing workers – in particular if someone is returning in a more senior position than when they left. A balance needs to be struck and employers should assess that they are doing all they can to open up lines of opportunity within an organisation, or they risk sending a message that one route to promotion and better package is to take the boomerang route.”

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.