Understanding ‘boomerang employees’

22 April 2022
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Across the past 12 months, 15% of new starters at Carr are returning employees; a rate that has grown considerably in recent years. To help uncover the reasons why, People and Culture Manager, Denise Passmore, contextualises the phenomenon together with two returning team members who share their own ‘boomerang’ experiences.

Denise Passmore, People and Culture Manager. Photography by Gavin Green.

While ‘The Great Resignation’ defined 2021, ‘The Great Regret’ is gaining momentum in 2022 as businesses report a spike in ‘boomerang employees’. What’s the driving force? It’s been dubbed as ‘shift shock’ by The Muse: “that feeling when you start a new job and realize, with either surprise or regret, that the position or company is very different from what you were led to believe.”


Understanding the context

People and Culture Manager, Denise Passmore, helps contextualise this duality by explaining the very real turbulence felt by employees and employers over the course of the pandemic.

“As individuals, we have all experienced the last two years differently, with each of us having gone through varying degrees of change,” noting, “Similarly many businesses have also gone through transformational change and have revolutionised the way they conduct business.”

Alongside a mass shift in workers seeking new horizons, the decision to change jobs has been for some a practical response to the mix of emotional pressures experienced. “During this period, some employees felt uncomfortable, perhaps disconnected or disillusioned by these events and made the decision to change jobs to alleviate these feelings,” Denise shares. And as the dust begins to settle the reality of those decisions are seeing some opting to return to their previous employer.

Respecting and fulfilling curiosity

One such person is Architect Zoe Buchanan, who Carr welcomed back in January 2022. Her reason for changing jobs was based on curiosity. “Before resigning, I had worked at Carr since the start of my professional architecture career,” Zoe explains. The sameness of extended Covid lockdowns and a personal desire to experience a different workplace ultimately led her decision to move on.

Denise is sympathetic to individuals’ desires to fulfil new opportunities; and as business, respecting and encouraging our team members’ curiosity and ambition is important to us.

We understand that sometimes to further develop, both personally and professionally, some team members need to leave us to experience working interstate or abroad or across different typologies and design principles.”

Denise Passmore
People and Culture Manager
Zoe Buchanan, Architect, with colleague Lauren Gostin, Interior Designer. Photography by Gavin Green.

An open door

Keeping the door open at Carr saw Zoe return a few months later to fill an available opportunity. “What drew me back was the existing relationships I had established over years of working at Carr and the understanding that the door was open if I ever wished to return in the future.”

Denise explains that providing an enriching working experience, plus clearly expressing the door is open to resigning members, is what enables this possibility. “When individuals approach us to explore a potential return, we adopt a welcoming mindset if we have the right opportunity available for them.”

Andrea Giuradei, Architect. Photography by Gavin Green.

Fresh perspectives

While Zoe’s break was only a few months, her return has afforded her a needed new perspective. “Since coming back at the start of 2022, I am ready to pick up where I left off but with a refreshed perspective and appreciation for the workplace.”

Sometimes the chance to step away helps reinvigorate the mind. For Zoe, this meant re-establishing what was important to her as an architect. “The design rigour championed by our founder and leadership team, the knowledge base of my colleagues in the studio, as well as the strong workplace processes, are also reasons I chose to return.”

For Architect Andrea Giuradei who returned to Carr after five years in late 2021, the shift in perspective has been evolutionary.  “The team is more diverse now and is leading to a more diverse and inclusive design outcome, which is important to me” explains Andrea.

Since coming back at the start of 2022, I am ready to pick up where I left off but with a refreshed perspective and appreciation for the workplace.”

Zoe Buchanan

Bringing knowledge from outside, in

Returning team members can improve workplace culture by bringing new skills and outside knowledge in. Andrea has used his time working elsewhere to understand his workplace values, adding texture and richness to the studio.

“Over time, I’ve learnt how important the wider team is in a company – those beyond your project team – who are a wonderful source of knowledge and help. I’ve come to understand that we can’t all know everything. Therefore, knowledge sharing is one of the most valuable things I’ve come to treasure and seek out in a workplace,” says Andrea.


Preventing regretful resignations

While some resignations are part of the natural flow of things, the priority is nevertheless to avoid resignations that are regretful. Regular communication and a commitment to understanding what drives a team member’s career motivations is guiding the approach at Carr. “Working together on development pathways especially as the business grows enables us to find new experiences or opportunities that benefit everyone,” Denise shares.

The conversation is importantly two-way. On this, Denise concludes by looking to Carr’s year ahead. “We recently completed our first Employee Engagement Survey and although our engagement is currently four points above Culture Amp’s Global High Performing Norm at 78%, we received some fantastic ideas from our team to help us enhance some of our policies and practices within the studio.”

Carr studio. Photography by Gavin Green.