The boomerang effect – why company culture matters more than ever

We’ve been playing catch with a number of trendy workplace phrases recently. We’ve had the artist formerly known as soft skills upgraded to power skills. Quiet quitting was freshly coined to describe doing a job without going ‘above and beyond’ what is required. The much-bandied great resignation morphed swiftly into the great migration, which has now evolved into the great renegotiation. Keeping concentration? Good, because the latest stick being thrown towards you is the boomerang employee.

Much like the prodigal son returning home after going out to seek his fortune in search for fresh adventures, many who decided to leave their previous roles since the pandemic are now returning back to their old workplaces. But why?

Our employment research with organisational leaders cross-sector over the past year supports much of what we’re hearing and seeing across different industries, and we’ve actually experienced this within our own organisation recently. Not one to pass up a great research opportunity, we decided to find out what the motivational factors were for somebody leaving, what made them want to return back to the fold after they’ve left, and what we can learn from these experiences in our future employment strategy and cultural direction.

Wham Bam, thank you Dann

James Dann, one of our much-valued team members who’d been a staple with Team Tech since 2018, recently decided to take up another offer after being head-hunted by another recruitment consultancy at the end of last year. This January, he returned back to us, and is not only smashing it, but has also brought with him some valuable experiences, which have subsequently enriched his current role. James has offered to share some of his experiences, talking about the reasons he decided to leave, why he chose to return, and what he has learned along the way.

What was it that triggered your decision to leave the team?
“I wasn’t actively looking for a role, but got approached about an exciting opportunity recruiting within a different industry. I was happy at Greenacre, so it was going to take a lot to draw me away, however the offer was one that ticked a lot of boxes both personally and workwise for me. Ultimately it was still a very tough decision, but one that I thought was the right one at the time and a good challenge for me.”

What made you decide you wanted to return to Greenacre, and was it an easy or comfortable process making that decision to open up the discussion?
“I always had an excellent relationship with everyone at Greenacre, especially Garry who I worked under for 4 years previously. There was no bad blood when I left and we kept in touch every so often anyway, usually discussing how bad our football teams had done that week (more me supporting Tottenham!) Once Garry had mentioned the possibility of coming back to Greenacre, it was something that excited me. I felt that I could hit the ground running straight away and had been keeping on top of what was happening in the sector. It was an easy and comfortable process with all of Garry, Dan and Joe, where we all had an open and honest conversation – almost like I had never left, which shows exactly what the culture and people are like at Greenacre.”

What ultimately have you gained in terms of experience and insight, and what have you learnt is most important to you as an individual?
“By putting yourself out there and joining a different organisation, it is always going to be full of learns, insights and challenges – all of which are extremely healthy. Experiencing how others perform their tasks in different ways to what I am used to was very insightful, and I have incorporated some in my daily routine now too.”

Paul Rubenstein, Chief People Officer at Visier, agrees with this viewpoint, and believes boomerang employees bring a fresh perspective to their return organisations. “They’ve had time away, perhaps even within a competitive organisation, and now bring with them a new outlook on the market and the organisation itself.” Boomerang workers have the unique ability to share what they have learned through industry competitors and collaborators, and contribute unique insights with a well-rounded perspective, having sat on different sides of the fence. It’s also easier and more resourceful to onboard returning employees than to train up fresh talent, and less impactful on the rest of the team, who often have to take up the slack throughout the training process.

Why do you think people return to their previous workplace, and how has your current role changed since returning?
“I think there are various reasons; however I can imagine that the common denominator is that they have maintained a great relationship with them, and no bridges were burnt previously. My role hasn’t changed too much. I am still working with various clients in social housing, and specialise in strategic assets, planned maintenance, repairs & maintenance and compliance on both an interim and permanent basis.”

Leave the door open on your way out

In a climate of chaos and constant change, boomerang workers present a unique opportunity in terms of their knowledge, experience, understanding of the company’s culture and expectations, as well as faster onboarding and learning processes.

Boomerang workers are also more aware of their own value, and are less afraid to set out their unique expectations and needs, which is an important foundation for the overall employee experience. Companies should not be afraid to explore the reasons people leave, and, if necessary, address any of these needs and expectations at the start of the return process. Having an open and honest conversation about why that person left, and addressing any outstanding issues, is the first step to reassimilating the valuable asset that is the boomerang employee.

When you have a fluid and open culture, which sets out to meet individual goals and work environment conditions, and have a continuous and healthy understanding of shared values and individual purpose, there should never be any fear of the grass being greener on the other side for your team members. The employee experience evolves and changes, just like an organisation, and keeping the door open can benefit both greatly.

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Greenacre Recruitment are corporate members of the REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) and operate within its code of professional practice, adhering to the highest standards of recruitment professionalism.

Greenacre Recruitment are a recognised ‘Disability Confident’ employer, and we believe diversity drives innovation. We are committed to ensuring our recruitment processes are inclusive and accessible to all.