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Lessons from Boomerang Employees: It’s Good to Be Back!

Lessons from Boomerang Employees: It’s Good to Be Back!

August 24, 2023
Masai Lawson

The “great resignation” of 2021 and 2022 saw workers voluntarily resign in record numbers. Now, with some hindsight and experience, many of those employees aren’t feeling too great after all. In fact, a new study reveals that over 80% of employees who left their roles as part of that mass resignation now regret it.

This is giving rise to another post-COVID workplace phenomenon that will join the great resignation and quiet quitting among workplace trends: the boomerang employee.

What is a Boomerang Employee?

A “boomerang employee” is an employee who leaves and returns to the same company. The name comes from the popular boomerang toy, which returns to the person who threw it, and boomerang employment is becoming more common. One study estimates that, across a wide range of sectors, boomerang employees account for 28% of new hires.

Why do Employees Boomerang?

The answers are as varied as the employees themselves: competitive pay and benefits, flexible scheduling, an exciting project, moving to a new location, and more.

“Employees boomerang for a number of reasons,” said Heather Eickhoff, PHR, SHRM-CP, director of human resources at Gannett Fleming. “Those I’ve talked to have wanted to explore a new field, work on the client side of our industry, try a firm of a different size or structure – everyone has their reasons. Once they’ve checked to see if the grass is greener, sometimes they do return as a boomerang employee, and the number of employees boomeranging is definitely on the rise.”

For example, Digital MarCom Manager Hilary Lentz shared, “The team and company culture brought me back to Gannett Fleming. It’s rewarding to work with people who are so talented and knowledgeable in their fields, and I also have the privilege of serving the LGBTQ+ community within Gannett Fleming as the vice chair of our LGBTQ+ at Gannett Fleming employee resource group. The culture, in general, is really special at Gannett Fleming. Our executive leadership team is accessible, dedicated to inclusion and our professional development, and active in making Gannett Fleming a great place to grow our careers while maintaining a full life outside of work.”

Is it OK to be a Boomerang Employee?

Yes! Some potential boomerang employees feel trepidation about returning, but they shouldn’t.

“Of course, we want to successfully address any issues that may motivate someone to leave before they depart, but if someone does leave, we want to keep the door open for a future opportunity. It’s what is best for the employee, our team, and the industry as a whole,” explained Eickhoff.

Employers see the benefits of welcoming back employees who already understand the culture, are familiar with the company’s structure and policies, and can hit the ground running on work.

“I came back to Gannett Fleming due to the people here and the projects we work on,” said Farzana Anika, an architectural project designer based out of New York City. “The architecture team has always been great with working collaboratively. Being around people who are open to questions and helping me learn encourages me to advance in my field. I also appreciate how the work that Gannett Fleming does impacts so many people around the city. Our work on transportation, schools, and spaces open to the public means we are making the city better and more enjoyable for everyone.”

The direct impact of her work in making New York City better and more enjoyable for everyone brought Farzana Anika back to Gannett Fleming.

How Competitive Benefits Impact Boomerang Employees

Employees see their day-to-day work paired with competitive benefits as critical parts of their decision-making.

“One benefit that I have enjoyed is the professional development. Gannett Fleming and GeoDecisions invest a lot in their employees in the forms of professional license and organization fee assistance,” said Matt Merrill, CSM, GISP, principal consultant of applications and systems at GeoDecisions, a division of Gannett Fleming. “It’s a perk that really shows that the company cares about the employees’ professional growth.”

Learning and professional development are priorities at Gannett Fleming, so our employees have access to several educational benefits, including:

  • Tuition reimbursement.
  • Professional licensing and exam assistance.
  • Free online course library and INSIGHTS program.
  • Reimbursement for professional organization membership fees.
  • Role-specific training, like Project Manager Academy and a Manager’s Toolkit.

“The floating holidays allow me to take time off for Eid, an Islamic holiday, while not affecting my PTO hours. Gannett Fleming’s policy of paying for passed exams that I have to take to get my architectural license is an additional push to taking my exams,” shared Anika.

“I love Gannett Fleming’s flextime and hybrid work policies. I have a ‘portfolio life’ filled with many passions – an elderly ferret who needs assistance throughout the day, a family who lives on the opposite side of the state from me, papercut art, hiking, and traveling. Being able to flex my schedule and work remotely allows me to balance my priorities without needing to sacrifice anything!” said Lentz.

Gannett Fleming’s culture and flextime and hybrid work policies allow Hilary Lentz to keep her life balanced, a differentiator in her decision to return.

Boomerang Employees Gain Career Clarity

Boomerang employees offer unique career insights because of their 360-degree view of an employer – they’ve seen the organization through several phases, including onboarding, employee engagement, offboarding, in the marketplace as a non-employee, and then through re-hire and re-engagement.

Merrill, whose more than 20 years in the geospatial information systems industry includes local government, state government, and consulting, shares the following advice, “Find your ‘why.’ That means figuring out what you are passionate about and leaning into it! And, of course, network, network, network!”

The many professional development opportunities provided by Gannett Fleming encouraged Matt Merrill to boomerang.

A recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average tenure of a professional is about five years, so teams must face their employees’ needs, motivations, and priorities head-on to retain an employee long-term. Boomerang employment is a growing result of this turnover, and it’s likely here to stay. By creating a culture that draws employees back, teams can benefit from boomerang employees’ valuable perspectives and experience.

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A women with long, dark hair wearing a gray outfit smiling for the camera.
Masai Lawson
Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition & Inclusion

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