Employees change jobs for many reasons — perhaps they work for a jerk, burn out, or have been passed up for a promotion. Maybe they feel underappreciated and underpaid. Michael Kaye, 30, didn’t feel like any of that when he decided to leave OKCupid. “I loved everything about my job,” said the Upper East Sider.
But, last summer, he couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunities he might be missing. Kaye, then a senior global public relations manager at the Midtown dating site, kept reading about the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle. “It was everywhere,” he said.
His LinkedIn connections kept showing up in his feed announcing that they had moved on to new employers. “I began to ask myself if this was the time for me to make a change, too,” said Kaye. He began putting feelers out.
Not long after, he was hired by LinkedIn as a corporate communications manager. But he stayed with the professional networking site for only eight months. “I loved my job and everyone there,” he said, but he didn’t feel as if he was making as big an impact as in his previous role. “When the opportunity arose for me to boomerang back to OKCupid, I enthusiastically said, ‘Yes!’ ”
If 2021 was the year of the Great Resignation, 2022 may be about the Great Return. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, also known as SHRM, the trend began late last year when 4.5% of all new hires were former employees. The number is probably even higher now considering that, according to a Harris Poll-USA Today nationwide survey of about 2,000 adults, about 1 in 5 workers who quit during the past two years regret it.
“It’s called ‘quitter’s remorse,’ ” said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM president and CEO. “Some say they were sold a bill of goods while being wooed by their new employers, specifically around things like company culture, employer brand and employee experience,” he said. A discovery like this could be tough luck, but not in today’s job market. Employees are in high demand and employers have come to understand the great value that alumni bring to the table. A survey by SHRM found that 86% of companies polled said that they would rehire former employees, providing three conditions are met. And those are?
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“It depends on how you left,” said Taylor. “And, did you provide adequate notice. No. 3: You are not expecting a reward for leaving and coming back.”
Workers who meet the criteria and who were strong performers are often put on their former employers’ recruiting lists. After all, they wouldn’t need much onboarding or ramp-up time.
Natasha Bowman, founder of the Bowman Foundation for Workplace Equity and Mental Wellness, said that she has worked with many health care companies who are even sending postcards to former employees saying the equivalent of “we want you back.” Other companies are adding corporate alumni to their passive job candidate databases and tagging them as highly desirable recruits.
Taylor said that managers keep in close touch with superstars who just left their employ, checking in over the first 30, 60 to 90 days of their departures to see how things are going and, in a subtle way, to see if they might be interested in returning. Sometimes it works. When Brooklyn resident Leslie Bishop left 5W Public Relations in Midtown, she already had a personal relationship with the company’s co-CEO Dara Busch, so quitting wasn’t easy. “But I was presented with a great opportunity, and I had to explore it. Still, it was really painful to leave,” she said.
Although the two women were no longer working together, each wanted to keep the relationship going. “We’re both mothers of three kids. We were more than colleagues. After I left, we became better friends,” said Bishop.
Over the next few months, Bishop mentioned that she might be interested in returning to 5W if the right opportunity became available. “I had to put it out there to see if there might be something to talk about,” she said.
The job Bishop left was already filled, but the company was growing quickly and Busch knew she’d be an asset. The women began to discuss what the right role for Bishop might look like.
“This was March of 2020; the pandemic had just started. No one knew what was next, so we put a pin in it,” said Busch.
By August of 2020, the women had it figured out. Soon after, Bishop rejoined 5W as a senior vice president and group director. She says she’s thrilled to be back and, by the way, she has something in common with three other members of 5W’s executive team — they’re all boomerang employees.
Wouldn’t it be better if Busch kept them from leaving in the first place? “No,” she said, noting that her employees are some of the best in the field, highly desirable recruits and that great opportunities will be put in front of them.
“If you want to leave, we set you free. If you come back, you return with renewed passion,” said Busch.
Bishop explained why: “Sometimes you have to go see something else to fully appreciate what you have.”