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News   August 11, 2023   by Adam Malik

From the Magazine: Tackling talent challenges with a blast from the past

So-called ‘boomerang employees’ may be an answer to some of your needs. But how do you bring them back?  

Amid a shortage of talent, trying to bring back former employees is one strategy your business should try. And this may be no better time, according to a study.

According to recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, nearly four in five (79 per cent) employees who left for what they thought would be greener pastures would be open to returning to their previous employer. Half of them said the reasons why they left — purpose, pay or flexibility — are no longer applicable in today’s market.

These are called ‘boomerang employees’ — those who left for a new company but are returning to their old one.

Robert Walters further found that 95 per cent of employers would take back those employees. About one in five (23 per cent) have reached out to their previous employer. So if you’re in need of a good employee and happen to know one who worked for you, it would be worthwhile to look into it, said Martin Fox, managing director of Robert Walters Canada

“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,” he said. “It appears that workers are realizing that the grass may not have been greener after all.”

What was coined as the ‘Great Resignation’ has turned into the ‘Great Regret,’ Fox observed.

Bringing back former employees was a strategy endorsed by Linda Brenner, managing director and founder of Talent Growth Advisors, who has worked with aftermarket and other industries as an advisor.

At NAPA Expo 2022, she encouraged aftermarket businesses to poach back former employees as talent wars rage on. Brenner said employers should check in with ex-staff if they’ve been gone for a while to see if they’re actually happy with their new gig. Tell them how you’ve changed and why it would be a good fit for them now, she recommended.

In the Harvard Business Review, authors Anthony C. Klotz, Andrea Derler, Carlina Kim, and Manda Winlaw noted that employers — especially with great employees — shouldn’t burn bridges when staff leave. Stay in touch. Keep them in your professional social networks.

“When an employee gives notice, most companies focus on minimizing the disruption to the organization and remaining workers,” they wrote. “While understandable, this approach is incomplete. In addition to these efforts, employers should take steps to build positive relationships with departing workers. After all, our research shows that these employees represent a substantial future recruiting pool.”

And timing is everything. Wait until about a year after that employee has left before you reach out to them.

“The one-year anniversary of a former employee’s resignation represents a natural milestone to check in, express to them that they are missed, and make a rehire offer,” the authors advised. “Our research shows that this is also the time when they’re most likely to want to boomerang back, but employers shouldn’t just sit around and wait for it to happen. Reconnecting at this critical moment can be a great way to encourage an employee who may be considering a return to make the leap.”

Need to sweeten the pot? Offer a raise or a promotion from their previous role.

“The Canadian market continues to grapple with a talent shortage, and so boomerang employees could well be a solution for many companies,” Fox said. “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 instill in a new employee.”

This story originally appeared in the July issue of Jobber News

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