Boomerang employees trend sweeps tech job market

The pandemic brought the Great Resignation wave, but also sparked a growing trend in which employees left a workplace, only to return once better terms and conditions were offered

Maayan Manela 09:0003.12.21
During the pandemic a year-and-a-half ago, Itay Rosen left his position as a programmer at Workiz. The company then occupied a small office in Ramat Gan and employed ten people. Rosen was one of two programmers, and worked on building the company’s platform with co-founder Saar Kohanovitch, who served as the Manager of Development. Rosen quit and was later hired by a large Israeli unicorn, saying he wanted to gain experience working for a large corporation, and to have the chance to enrich his technological knowledge.


“I left after a year to branch out professionally and work for a larger company. I wanted to get to work with more types of people, see different divisions, and understand what it means to work at a company that has several customers, whose products bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That’s something that you just don't have at startups,” he said.


Employees are resigning and then being rehired, researchers call this the "boomerang" phenomenon (illustrative). Photo: Shutterstock Employees are resigning and then being rehired, researchers call this the "boomerang" phenomenon (illustrative). Photo: Shutterstock


Rosen started off as a senior developer, and later served as a Technology Lead and Technology Team Leader. Over that course of a year-and-a-half, Rosen stayed in touch with senior executives at Workiz and even met up with Kohanovitch every few months for a beer. “There are a lot of benefits to working at an enterprise, but the drawback is that you’re working on a very small part of the product. I spoke with Saar and Adi (Azaria, who serves as Workiz CEO) and they gave me another chance, offered me better terms, and the opportunity to take up a new position that incorporated a little bit of everything. Startups give you the opportunity to work for a company that’s seeing accelerated-growth. When I left we were only two developers, but now the company has over 80 employees,” he said. While the better terms played a role in his decision to return, he was more excited to get back to creating a product.


In November, Rosen returned to Workiz, where he became the Director of Architecture. His main challenges, he says, are getting to know the newer employees and also gaining their trust. “When I left, I knew everyone quite well but when I came back, I opened the door and realized the setup was brand new. I had to get used to the open space, and earn the developers’ trust, both at the personal and professional level,” he said.


Boomerang employees


Stories like Rosen’s about employees who boomerang back to a workplace have become commonplace especially during the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the Tefen Group which questioned 5,000 workers and human resource managers, some 8% of employees in Israel who left their previous job during the pandemic returned, and in the U.S. that figure stands at 15%. The majority of Israeli employees who left and later returned to those companies, assumed more senior positions and were offered better working conditions.


Since the pandemic, there has been an unprecedented wave of resignations across the job industry. According to figures from the Israel Employment Service, the number of resignations in Israel leapt by 50% this past October when compared to the corresponding month in 2019. There was an increase of 20% when comparing September 2021 to September 2019. This phenomenon has caused a leap in the number of “boomerang employees.” The Tefen survey, conducted among people between the ages of 21-45, found that in Israel the high-tech sector had 10 times more boomerang employees than any other industry.


“Over the past year, ‘boomerang employees’ have become far more common among Millenials and Gen-Z. Workers especially in the high tech industry are often blinded by the variety of perks that companies offer, and are far more exposed to million-shekel campaigns on television and billboards. They read articles about companies who take their employees on vacations to the Seychelles and throw huge parties with concerts by popular artists; they see posts on Facebook calling for current employees to get their friends hired, and even receive a slew of tempting offers via the internet every day. Even if they are in a relatively good workplace, the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) takes over and they have the urge to check other available options,” says Mally Bitzur-Parnes, CEO and founder of the Tefen Group, which specializes in management and consulting. “The pandemic exacerbated this phenomenon and made many people want to make their dreams come true. Now, we’re living in unpredictable times. Even if it means leaving your comfort zone and quitting in hopes of finding something better, people are eager for that change. When it comes down to it, we’ve seen employees prefer to return to their original workplace after coming to the conclusion that not all that glitters is gold. I think this trend will continue,” she says.


According to the survey, 77% of employees who boomeranged were under 30: some chose to return once better terms were offered (60%), others said they couldn’t find a better option available (20%), and some missed their previous workplace which they said ‘felt like home’ (20%). “We’re seeing that salary is the main reason people leave, but there are also other notable considerations to take into account, such as having financial security, time to spend with family, and having that homey feeling at work.”


Another interesting statistic found that while in the past 70% of companies refused to rehire boomerang employees, today nearly 75% are willing to and are offering them better terms. And for many companies this is considered a smart move: they earn a loyal employee who’s in it for the long run. The majority of employees questioned in the survey stated that they prefer to remain there until they retire (92%), explained Bitzur-Parnes.


According to the survey, some employees who boomeranged noted that their main reason for leaving was either the unattractive salary and terms (50%), a feeling of exhaustion and disinterest (18%), felt curious about other options in the employment market (10%), didn’t get along with their managers (9%), or personal reasons (13%) such as leaving due to an illness, taking a lengthy trip, pursuing studies, or a vacation.


“During a time when recruiting is fierce, it’s important for companies who terminate an employee's contract to do so in a pleasant and respectable way, since in the future either party could be interested in returning. In that way, the company is also sending an important message to existing and potential employees that they are valued,” she added.



Real-life examples


Most boomerang employees (82%) quit, and one of the reasons that enables them to return is the good working relationship they maintained with key people at their previous workplace.


In order for employees to be rehired they need to willingly leave their place of employment or try working somewhere else, and when their performance has been on-track and they have the necessary skills required for the intended position, companies will rehire them, explained Dan Soffer, who serves as VP & General Manager and Director of Merchant Markets at Verifone.


And Soffer knows what he’s talking about. He was also a boomerang employee, leaving his position in marketing at Verifone in 2008, only to return a year later to become a business development manager. Later, he was promoted and became CEO of the company’s Israel branch, and a year-and-a-half ago was appointed as VP of Merchant Markets at the global level. In total, the company has 15 boomerang employees of its 300 in Israel. “Sometimes employees are forced to leave a workplace for personal reasons or professional considerations, and I think it makes sense that employees are curious about new opportunities or would like a breather. Clearly, each case must be examined separately, but I support rehiring a good former employee. The company is well-acquainted with the employee’s skills and suitability for the position, and may be gaining a team player who’s acquired some external experience. The employee also knows where they’re headed, and typically gets offered a more senior position often with improved benefits,” he said.


Staying in touch with former employers and having a good working relationship is one factor that enables employees to return to their former workplace. Vlad Pankov, a software developer at SQream, was hired eight years ago after he completed his mandatory military service, and joined the company’s developer team. Two years after he was hired, he decided to take leave, travel around the world, and gain experience in other fields. He worked at several different startups, at a large corporation, and experimented with a variety of software and workplaces. Before the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago, he received an offer he couldn’t refuse: getting to work on a project with the SQream CTO and founders. He decided to return.



“Returning wasn’t so challenging. I felt like I came home, and still knew everyone pretty well. Management helped make the entire process simple and pleasant. I received much better terms since the company had grown quite a bit, and had more funds to make this happen. I left the company in a very good, transparent, and professional atmosphere. Leaving on good terms played an important part in easing my way back in,” he said.


The reason for leaving also plays an important part in the desire to return to a previous workplace. Rubin Koretz-Levi left her position as a Product Manager at fintech company Earnix in March 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic hit Israel, due to a family issue. In recent months she began job searching and despite receiving several offers she chose to return to Earnix.


“Lately, I received a lot of different job offers from companies. There are plenty of opportunities in the market, but Earnix reached out to me and offered me the chance to return to my previous position, and it’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “I returned to Earnix, because I wanted to be part of the company’s team. Their vision, fast-paced growth, the fact that they became a unicorn, and incorporate a corporate culture that is both supportive and empowering created excellent terms for me to come back.”