Meet & Engage

The boomerang employee: why offboarding has become as important as onboarding

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Where the economy is concerned, it seems that the post-Covid rollercoaster is set to continue for some time. We know the UK is in recession, but predictions on how long it will last—and how severe it will be—fluctuate from week to week.

In 2022, The Conference Board predicted that the UK economy would shrink by 0.6% in terms of real GDP growth in 2023, and recent reports from the IMF back up this prediction. This is evidence that the compounding factors of the cost-of-living crisis, high taxes, worker shortages, and rising mortgage costs are setting the UK apart from all other advanced and emerging economies – and not in a good way. Even Russia is predicted to perform better than us economically this year, despite their criminal war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed as a result.

Why we’re going to hear more of the word ‘Boomerang’

It may feel pretty bleak, but if there’s one thing the last few years has taught us, it’s that things always come back around, and sometimes quicker than you’d expect. The IMF expects the UK to grow in 2024, revising its forecast to 0.9% growth (up from 0.6%), and this will likely mean that many of the businesses rushing to cut headcount and freeze hiring now may be scrambling to undo this work in the not-too-distant future.

Let’s also not forget that we saw an increased desire in people to shake things up after the pandemic; as the world opened back up, priorities were re-assessed, people moved out of big towns and cities, and many were driven by a need to just do something different after a period of fear, boredom, and frustration. As we put that time behind us, not only are businesses in the hardest hit industries seeing some level of bounce-back, but many people are starting to realise that the grass wasn’t necessarily greener, and maybe life was better before…

15% of professionals who quit their jobs return to their former company

There are two types of ‘boomerang employee’ and both represent a great opportunity for employers if they can create the right long-term engagement strategies. The first is the employee who has left or been made redundant, and the other is the retiree who finds themselves needing, or wanting, to return to work. Both come equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience to step back into your business and add value quickly. In fact, a study from Cornell University found that in one large healthcare organization, boomerang employees outperformed new external hires overall, particularly in people-centred or administrative roles (e.g. HR specialists, IT project managers, lawyers).

Korn Ferry’s 2023 Future of Talent Acquisition Report states that ‘15% of professionals who quit their jobs return to their former company’. Furthermore, according to one recent survey, boomerangs accounted for 4.2% of all US hires from jobs posted on LinkedIn; in 2019, that number was 3.3%.

When it comes to retirees, there is a personal case for returning to work. The cost-of-living crisis is certainly a driving factor, but it also seems that the Government have earmarked the over 50s as a key group who can help businesses grow and fill skills gaps. On January 27th, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt practically begged the over 50s to return to the workforce saying “So to those who retired early after the pandemic, or haven’t found the right role after furlough, I say Britain needs you. And we will look at the conditions necessary to make work worth your while.”

However, Professor Irena Grugulis, Chair in Work and Skills at Leeds University Business School, said business also has a role to play: “They are a very successful group. They’ve got work experience. They’ve got skills. They are used to going into work. They’ve worked for decades. They are a very convenient group to target. But work needs to be attractive.”

For your former employees from both the above groups, there is one common experience: they have at some point left, or been offboarded from, your business.

The game of life is a game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy - Florence Scovel Shinn

Even if you weather the various storms of 2023 redundancy-wise, most businesses will expect to lose staff through natural attrition and retirement over the course of a year. Therefore, positive offboarding should absolutely be on your priorities list.

At Meet & Engage we specialise in engagement technology: helping businesses to inspire, inform and support candidates and employees through each stage of the employee life cycle – from initial attraction to post-leave date.

With our technology in mind, I’ve detailed below my suggested my top three areas of focus for those looking to create an offboarding experience which brings the possibility of boomeranging firmly back on the table.

Clear communication about processes

Regardless of whether an employee is leaving of their own volition or not, leaving a job can be fraught with emotion. There are always processes to complete – from returning equipment, to completing an exit interview – and clear communication about what’s necessary and expected, and how to cover those steps, can help remove stress and upset.

Resources for redundancies / retirees

People falling into both these categories may feel anxious and scared about what comes next. As part of their offboarding process, you have an opportunity to create a repository of resources which could provide support for some time after their last day. This could include help and advice on topics such as upskilling and personal development, or even pension management and financial tools. If you’re looking at redundancy, providing information on CV writing, job searching, and networking will also help your leavers know that you want the best for them.

Keep in touch

If you want ex-employees to consider working for you again in the future, you’re going to want to keep in touch and maintain their engagement. You don’t want to inundate people with emails (which will mostly go unread), or calls (too invasive), but our technology offers alternatives. You could launch an always-on social media inspired leavers portal that nudges people to come back and view updates, provides a way to communicate with other alumni, and gives potential returners a way to easily see open roles and flag interest to the right person.

There are many other ways to boost your offboarding process and we’d be happy to talk through your aims and suggest how our suite of technology could work for you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Solutions Team via info@meetandengage.com as we’d love to tell you more!

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