New data from LinkedIn's Economic Graph team found that 4.3% of all job changes in 2021 were "boomerang hires" who left a company and later returned, George Anders reports for LinkedIn.
Amid the "Great Resignation," employees across the country have quit their jobs in record numbers. However, a new LinkedIn analysis appears to show that many questioned their initial decisions to leave—and "boomeranged" back to their former employers.
For their analysis, researchers looked at roughly 32 million LinkedIn members' job histories and discovered that the percentage of workers that return to a former employer is continually rising. For instance, they found that "boomerang hires" across all U.S. industries made up 4.3% of all job changes in 2021—an increase from less than 2% in 2010.
In particular, researchers found that 4.3% of U.S. hospital and health care workers returned to their former companies in 2021.
Across all U.S. industries, researchers found that the average time between rehires shrunk from an average of 21.8 months in 2010 to just 17.3 months in 2021. Among health care workers, it took an average of 16.5 months to "boomerang."
"It could happen to any of us," Anders writes. "We're doing all right in our current jobs, when an exciting new offer from a different organization comes along. We accept—make the move—and then begin to wonder if we goofed. Or perhaps we like the new job, but our old employer misses us terribly. And then we start getting offers to come back on vastly better terms."
In a recent Sloan Management Review post, business professor Ben Laker claims that when a former employee returns to a job, they typically understand company culture in ways that newcomers do not—which often results in a much faster and smoother onboarding.
And as more employees "boomerang" back to their former employers, companies are rethinking the ways they engage with former employees.
"Employers are thinking of alumni as an opportunity rather than a betrayal," said Andrea Legnani, global head of alumni relations at Citi. Previously, alumni outreach was largely geared toward retirees. "Now companies are looking at alumni as employees of the future."
"With priorities for both talent and management changing fast, it's easy for last year's headaches to morph into this year's opportunities," Anders writes. (Anders, LinkedIn, 3/30)
Despite an organization's best retention efforts, employees may leave for any number of reasons. Many may be interested in returning to their former employer, but most organizations do not proactively reach out to their "alumni." Hiring boomerang employees can be deeply beneficial to your organization, and this is especially true as health care organizations around the country are struggling with longstanding shortages.
We believe you can encourage a departing employee to become a boomerang employee from the moment they leave. This means being overwhelmingly clear about the opportunity with them: "We've enjoyed working with you and would welcome you back if your next role or organization doesn't fit your needs." This immediately sets the stage for departing employees to be aware of the option. It is also reasonable to stay in touch with the employee and periodically check in on people who have left the organization who you believe would be a good boomerang employee.
Component 1: Identify former employees to contact
HR staff and managers use performance ratings and time since separation (e.g., separations within the last year) to identify former employees to contact.
Component 2: Call former employees to discuss open positions and organizational changes
HR staff call former employees to open a line of communication and let them know about potential opportunities to return to the organization. HR staff also discuss significant changes at the organization (such as a successful EMR installation or change in care model) since the former employee has left.
Component 3: Make it easy for former employees to be new hires.
Organizations may choose to offer additional enticements to former employees who return within a certain time frame, such as a condensed orientation or immediate retirement fund match.
Onboarding is often a large lift for an organization, especially for complex roles and settings in health care. If an employee is returning to the same position, they already know some of the most important pieces of any work environment: necessary skillsets, setting, culture, team dynamics, and more. Much of this stands true even if they are going to a new role in your organization—there is a promising power of familiarity and comfort of the work environment. We recommend tailoring training sessions for both new hires, but especially for boomerang employees. This may involve self-assessments, enforcing different requirements for clinical and non-clinical staff, curating trainings based on facility or department, introducing complementary sessions, and more.
Boomerang employees came back to your organization for a positive reason. They are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work, and it is likely they will significantly add to progress at the organization.
Save between 33 and 66% of the cost of recruiting a boomerang employee compared to a new hire. Put simple, there is far less financial risk with a boomerang hire. According to Glassdoor, reduced recruiting costs can save organizations up to $20,000 per hire.
This article highlights that hospital and health care employees that boomerang back are doing so in line with the national average, but it is worth narrowing in on the specific type of workers who can become a boomerang hire. Interestingly, our Advisory Board experts have not observed this phenomenon with physicians as much, but we have seen it with nurses.
We've written a lot about why nurses are leaving their jobs and how it has led to the nursing shortage, so, is it possible to bring back nurses who have left your organization in the past few years? Parkview Health, a large health system in the upper Midwest, recently targeted this exact question. They created an Emeritus RN (E-RN) Program to bring retired nurses back to the workforce and transition nurses on the cusp of retirement into a new, flexible role. They accomplished their goal of bringing back retired nurses, but the benefits extended to engaging and retaining current employees. The E-RN role enabled Parkview to retain valuable organizational expertise by restructuring job responsibilities away from physical work and offering flexible work arrangements. Since implementing the program, Parkview has successfully retained experienced RNs, boosted engagement across their workforce, and significantly reduced first-year turnover.
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