Rise of boomerang employees: 71% of professionals open to returning to pre-COVID employer

Rise of boomerang employees: 71% of professionals open to returning to pre-COVID employer

Almost three quarters of professionals (71%) have stated that they are open to returning to their pre-COVID employer – with half admitting that the reasons as to why they left are no longer applicable in today’s market.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% of workers who had left their job after lockdown did so for better pay – with a further 35% leaving for a better workplace culture or more purpose/fulfilment in their role.

Fast-forward two years later and 48% 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.

Toby Fowlston, CEO of Robert Walters, said: “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% 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.”

Keeping a foot in the door

Eighty-two 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% stating that they have not done it yet but intend to this year.

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

Managers hesitant

While the sentiment may be there from professionals, it seems the same cannot be said for managers – in fact 44% 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’.

Fowlston added: “I’m afraid managers/employers need to swallow their pride here. While 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.”

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