The “Great Resignation” is giving way to the “Great Regret,” as professionals who quit their jobs post-COVID return to their former employers. Elliot Clark, CEO of HRO Today, recently spoke with Cathleen Beetel to understand how the “boomerang employee” phenomenon is changing the way companies think about recruitment and retention.

Beetel broke down the key factors driving this hiring surge and how companies can capitalize on it with better alumni recruitment programs.

Who are the boomerang employees?

“Boomerang employees” is a term that refers to professionals who return to their former employers after working for other companies.

Boomerang or alumni hiring isn't new, but it has increased significantly post-Covid. In 2010, companies said 2% of hires were returning employees. In 2019, just before the pandemic, that rose to 3.9%. Now, post-pandemic, it's gone up to 4.5%—an increase Clark characterizes as “a quantum shift.”

Cathleen Beetel says several factors are driving this hiring trend.

“During the pandemic, professionals, for the most part, had to stay put. Then, over the last 12 to 18 months when hiring picked back up, employees were lured away by promises of higher pay and better titles. After several years of remote work, some employees felt disconnected from their coworkers and company and ready to try something new.”

The flip side is also true. It’s harder to onboard and assimilate into a new company culture when employees are remote or hybrid—hence the “Great Regret” we’re seeing today.

The pandemic reset: why employers need to think differently about off-boarding

No company is immune to attrition, which is why the final goodbye could be the key to getting another hello.

“We always have regrettable losses of people who left, and we wish we could bring them back. For some key roles, whether it's either volume hiring or niche hiring, bringing those people back is really important," says Beetel. "The way in which people manage exit and off-boarding practices has always been a topic that we've explored with our clients, the world over. There’s a rich channel of talent that could come back to your firm if you manage that in the right way.”

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Beetel stressed that the human element is key to recruitment success. She recommends a thoughtful, intentional approach, starting with a project team focused on alumni recruitment. That’s because the message to these former employees is very different than the recruitment message to other hires. 

“With clients, I typically create a project team because the messaging is very different recruiting alumni versus someone who has never worked for your company. Start by building that program, being very targeted about the roles you'd like to fill with your alumni and building the recruiting campaigns that go along with it.” 

“Connect it to the employee referral program. Tap into your existing employee base for those former coworkers who they worked with who we know will be endorsed. Ensuring existing employees touch base with some of the organization’s alumni is key to connecting with those who may not be happy in their new role, and then you can craft the right opportunity to bring them back.” 

 To listen to the complete conversation, click to access the full podcast with HRO Today or contact us today.