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Success: They’re Back: Boomerang Employees on the Rise for Good or Bad

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The great resignation and the great reshuffle during the pandemic, tied in some cases to childcare and homeschooling and in others to reevaluation of priorities, appears to be driving a new trend: boomerang employees. Workers are returning to their former employer more often than in the past and often after a shorter time away.

According to LinkedIn data, boomerang employees accounted for “4.3% of all job switches” in 2021, up from under 2% in 2010. The average time away was 17.3 months in 2021, compared to 21.8 months in 2010.

For Chad Stripling, director of data science for the interaction innovation team at 84.51°, a data science and analytics firm and media company in Cincinnati, Ohio, four years was long enough to be away from his former employer. Stripling worked at 84.51° as an intern and then as a lead data scientist for about five years. He left the company in 2018, then returned in 2022.

“I left to manage a pricing team at Kroger’s grocery stores and then managed a team for a clothing retailer,” Stripling says. “I gained new experience and skills, but I was eager to return to 84.51°.”

The “grass is always greener on the other side” attitude led many people to experiment with new companies or to be lured away with higher pay because of the ongoing labor shortage. In a 2022 survey by payroll firm UKG, “Four out of 10 people (43%) who quit their jobs during the pandemic now admit they were actually better off at their old job.”

“There’s always something that bothers you about a job, even if you’re self-employed,” says Mike Ashie, a leadership and management consultant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “After the great resignation there was a hiring frenzy and people were paying top dollar to attract employees. But in hindsight, many people who left their companies realized they didn’t know what they were getting into.”

Stripling, like other boomerang employees, found plenty of reasons to return to 84.51°.

“The culture at 84.51° is extremely collaborative,” Stripling says. “The leadership is very transparent about their objectives and provides feedback on how their initiatives are performing. They also have a great attitude about work-life balance. I’m extremely dedicated to my career, but I also appreciate that they advocate for taking time off and for remote work.”

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