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How to Get Your Ex (Employee) Back - Plus, Ways to Make it Last This Time

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It happens time and time again: the person you thought you knew—the one who made a commitment to your organization—changes their mind and walks out the door. Seemingly out of the blue. In the last year or so, this trend reached epic proportions. And it’s not over yet. 

TP Cover 6.6 If you prefer, you can download the PDF of this Talent Pulse Briefing. 

A shocking one-quarter of the workforce resigned in 2021, and a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March. Over 40% of U.S. workers are actively searching for a new job right now, or plan to soon. This is double the rate it was in 2019.

In our Employment Outlook Survey for Q3 of 2022, 78% of hiring managers in Manufacturing stated that they had “some” to “a lot of” trouble finding skilled talent.


Was it something we said? 
The first step to mending your relationship is understanding what made your worker leave in the first place. Many people have examined the reasons behind the Great Resignation, revealing not one motivator, but several.   

The bottom line—people discovered their own self-worth, and with it, newfound leverage. Employers that took their employees for granted were suddenly scrambling to fix their relationships. Suddenly, what used to be three candidates for every opening turned into three openings for every one candidate. 


Getting back with your ex
In an atmosphere where companies are desperate to hire, they may make promises, implicit or explicit, to get a candidate in the door. If the organization doesn’t deliver on those promises, the new hire may walk. And often, you’re looking good in comparison. These workers may secretly want to come back—or “boomerang.” Boomerangs accounted for 4.5% of all new hires among companies on LinkedIn in 2021, up from 3.9% in 2019.  

This is an opportunity for you. If a valuable employee has left on good terms, don’t hesitate to reach out again—especially if you have a new role to offer them. This is particularly important as the talent shortage continues. Our new Employment Outlook Survey finds that 56% of U.S. employers still report some difficulty filling roles due to a lack of skilled talent. 

Don't be afraid to make the first move.  Keeping tabs on your former worker's career path should be viewed as a compliment.  You care about their potential and want to help nurture it again.   

Don’t mess it up 
If an ex is thinking of coming back, it’s already a good sign. But remember, they still want to come back on their own terms. Whether it’s a returning worker or a new candidate, these individuals have expectations that pre-pandemic workers did not.  

  • Flexibility. In our What Makes Workers Thrive survey (December 2021), 45% of respondents said that when it comes to flexibility, choosing their starting and ending times was of utmost importance. 
  • Continuity.  Where the pre-pandemic worker may have agreed to a project with undefined end dates to "get a foot in the door", the newly enlightened workforce knows that long-term, continuous work options abound. If you are not offering continuity, your opportunities must have a premium differentiating factor. 
  • Proximity. Workers got used to working remotely — or not at all — and they don’t want a long commute. 
  • Mobility. Emerging from “pandemic mode,” workers are now refocusing on upward mobility. In a March survey of current Manpower Associates across the U.S., the number one reason respondents gave for wanting to leave a job was “no room for growth.” And in a global survey, 81% of candidates said they are looking for employers to support their training and career development. 

Really, I’ve changed. 
The hidden secrets of attraction (and retention):

  • An Open Mind –  Loosening (not lowering!) your standards could open up a whole new world of prospects. Don't tie yourself to a rigid set of requirements. Our Recruiting Persona profiles can help you find better-fit candidates.
  • Speed to Paycheck – This starts with an efficient, seamless application and interview process. If you drag it out too long, you may lose attractive candidates. Consider dropping drug tests – which currently eliminate about 53% of all applicants – and reducing background checks for some jobs. Once onboard, the process also needs to be seamless. Do your best to have all processes in place on Day One, and make the new hire feel at home.


  • Job Design – The role should be structured in a way that speaks to the candidate. What will they be getting out of the relationship? What makes you and your organization stand out from the competition?   And remember the newfound importance of flexibility. Do your best to redesign your ways of working to give people the hours they want, with an option to work additional hours if they choose. Our recruiting personas can help you design effective and inclusive recruiting strategies.
  • Upward Mobility – Provide planful opportunities with targeted next jobs and clear steps to get there. Manpower invests in people to help develop them, grow their career, upskill them for the future, and retain them with programs like MyPath, the Manpower Select Program, and the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing. We can help you define career progression blueprints for your key roles with Career Pathways offering.  
  • Additional Perks – Many companies expanded the wellness support they provided to their employees in the wake of the pandemic. Gartner analysis shows that employees who utilize mental, physical and financial well-being programs benefits report 23% higher levels of mental health, 17% higher levels of physical health, and are 23% more likely to say they sleep well at night. These improvements in wellness are likely to translate to higher levels of performance and retention, and winning employers will continue and expand these programs. Another perk gaining traction for shift employees is next-day access to their pay through apps like Instant Pay. 

A long-term vs. short-term relationship?  
You’ll probably need to leverage both contingent and perm workers at various times based on the strategic needs of the business. It all depends on the balance of your short- and long-term needs. In the long run, a contingent workforce usually saves you money. But the wage differential is shrinking between temp and perm workers. Flexibility is one of the main reasons for going temp especially in uncertain times such as these. You can easily pivot when business ebbs and flows. It’s very important to treat contingent workers as if they might stick around though. You may find you can’t live without them.  

It's not them—it's you.  Is it time to change? 
Change is hard. Especially if you are going against long-established methods for attraction and retention. Or perhaps what workers want right now seems unreasonable or financially impossible for your organization. Well, spoiler alert, there is still a world of amazing job seekers out there and it may not be them that needs to change. Consider the repercussions of failing to identify the workers you need. It may be time to revisit the question of what is impossible to do—and what is just hard to do. Employers that choose to forge ahead with innovative solutions win the talent race, and Manpower can help. 

For more about determining your best workforce mix, consider our Total Cost of Workforce solution, designed to reveal all the hidden costs associated with your workforce, from labor to benefits, to the cost of turnover and more. 

 For tips on determining the right workforce mix during the continuing talent shortage, see our July 2021 Talent Pulse.  

From flexible staffing support to workforce re-engineering to long-term cost reduction strategies like automation, we can work with you to achieve your objective. Connect with your Manpower workforce expert today.  

What's next?

From flexible staffing support to workforce re-engineering to long-term workforce  cost reduction strategies like automation, we can work with you to achieve your objectives.

Learn more

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