The Rise Of The Boomerang Employee

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they are open to returning to their pre-Covid employer – with half admitting that the reasons as to why they left are no longer applicable in today’s market according to the latest research from Robert Walters.


  • 71% considering returning to pre-Covid employers after realising ‘grass wasn’t greener’
  • Quarter admit to having already reached out to previous employer
  • 49% admit original reasons for leaving – purpose, pay & flex – are no longer relevant
  • 48% claim that current employer no longer meets their needs in current climate
  • Quarter admit cost-of-living crisis has changed how they feel about current employer
  • 82% remain in touch with previous employer – with third saying it is to keep door open
  • 44% of managers hesitant to hire previous employee

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 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% 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
82% 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 too this year.
Less than 1 in 5 employees have completely shut the door on previous employers, with 18% stating that they keep zero contact with their previous manager.

Managers Hesitant
Whilst 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.’

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.”

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