The twenty- and thirty-something members of Generation Y think differently about their careers. A survey for the London Business School last year found that on starting a new role, 40% were already planning their next move. So rather than judge success on keeping staff turnover low, keeping the door open for former employees to return will become just as important. This is the boomerang effect.
Organisations should not feel rejected by a millennial on the move. Rather than trying to encourage their employees to stay put, organisations must adapt to keep up with this job-hopping workforce. On-boarding and off-boarding processes will have to streamline to allow for freedom of movement.
Companies need to see their departure as another stage in the employee lifecycle rather than trying to hang on to an employee tempted by a more interesting offer. Like a sabbatical or a secondment, it is an opportunity for the employee to develop their experience and then bring it back to the original employer.
Companies already maintain relationships with former employees – think of senior staff who go on to become consultants - but this will become far more widespread. I think we will see the rise of networks of individuals connected to corporations, with the strength of their connections varying over time as they leave and return. As Gen Y have grown up with social media, they are used to cultivating multiple relationships and understand the power of networks, making this an easy entry point for organisations to maintain contact with departed staff.
Provided the organisation has not been through any massive cultural or transformative change in the interim, boomerang staff will already be familiar with its values, working style and possibly even colleagues. They will settle back in and be more productive sooner, sharing knowledge gained elsewhere.
2015 marks a milestone in the shifting of workplace generations, with Gen Y outnumbering the ‘baby boomers’ (born 1946-1965) for the first time. This demographic change means it is even more vital that employers focus on valuing what makes Gen Y tick. This generation are motivated by having roles and working in companies with meaning and purpose.
Managing these relationships will take an investment of time and resource. The HR function will need a stronger voice on the board, as talent management becomes more central to business success. Talent managers will value employees for their skills, matching reward packages to their specific motivations throughout their employment cycle.
Ultimately, maintaining a healthy relationship may mean employers have to let their staff go – perhaps repeatedly – while always giving them a reason to come back. It will be worth it if they can catch the boomerang and reap the benefits of greater enthusiasm and knowledge on their return.