‘…From Your Employees’ part two

by Lee Caraher
Published by Bibliomotion, Inc.
ISBN: 9781629561684
eBook ISBN: 9781351816571
Copyright (c) 2017 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

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“Some companies have come to understand that former employees need not be the enemy and can, in fact, be their biggest allies, collectively. These companies have built apparatus and adopted a mind-set that will support employees in crafting their own careers and returning to serve as employees or contractors at different times with different, enhanced skill sets.

These companies are a small minority, however. Many still operate from the point of view that employers deserve the loyalty of their employees simply because the companies pay those people. Despite the dramatic shift in employment expectations that happened as fallout from the economic meltdown in 2008 and the resulting Great Recession, many companies have not shifted to the reality that they helped created with the massive downsizings that occurred in 2008 through 2011.

As Stanford researchers Jeffrey Pfeffer and Peter Belmi have noted, “The daily news provides numerous cases of companies not repaying employee loyalty and, instead, harming employees and ex-employees through their actions.” Indeed, the notion that there’s a new employeeemployer equation is strong and readily visible in workplace articles from across the country. Eilene Zimmerman encapsulates the commonly held belief that things have changed when she writes, “There as was a time in the not-so-distant past when the American workplace operated under an implicit agreement: Employees who worked hard at their jobs and stayed loyal to their company were rewarded with job security, health benefits and other perks.”

Employees today, particularly Millennials (born 1980 – 2000) know that they need to craft and actively manage their own career paths and that staying fresh is vital to a long and prosperous work life. Employees don’t expect to stay in a position or company for long, and they will actively seek positions that promise opportunity if their aspirations are not realized meaningfully in their current position. Millennials are conscious of creating their own brands because their parents have drilled into their heads that they can’t count on a company to take care of them. Gen Xers (born 1965-1981) are in the middle of careers that are looking longer than they anticipated, and many older Boomers are hoping to hang on until retirement, which seems to get pushed out further and further every year. People seem to understand that they can’t count on finding that “I’ll retire from here” position their parents and grandparents may have enjoyed.

At the same time, 46 percent of Millennials indicate that they would absolutely consider returning to a former employer—a huge positive delta compared to Gen Xers and Boomers, only 33 percent and 29 percent of whom, respectively, would consider returning to work at a former employer, even if they’d left on positive terms.

While some might say this indicates that Millennials are leaving their companies too soon, it may be simply because they do not consider tenure a positive or relevant factor in their career trajectory. Or, it may be that some Millennials’ disappointment in the reality of work compels them to leave a job instead of trying to work it out. I have pages and pages of examples of that, but try to remember that I’m hearing these stories of what I would call unrealistic expectations and job abandonment through my older ears. What some people call entitlement, I call conditioning.

Millennials, in general, have grown up hearing about work life balance virtually their whole lives, thanks to the Boomer and Gen X working women who have paved more hospitable and flexible work lives for themselves and those behind them. In addition, Millennials have had the power of “instant access” to people, companies, and institutions in their hands for much of their lives. Their opinions have been solicited and sometimes compensated early and often by product companies that are eager to capture their purchasing power. And with the disintermediation of media, Millennials have grown up in a culture in which influence has been distributed much more widely and talent has emerged in many fields outside of the traditional business models, career paths, and “processes.” Boomers and Gen Xers, on the other hand, came to understand “how things were done.” While certain individuals of any generation may be entitled, Millennials as a generation are not; they simply have different expectations of their experiences based on the advantages the proliferation of technology has afforded them.

Yet many companies—of all sizes—have yet to shift to a mind-set or philosophy that leverages the new equation between employers and employees. Indeed, 60 percent of the people I interviewed and surveyed across the country indicated that their companies either had strict policies or unspoken, but well understood, rules against rehiring former employees, regardless of how great they were in their previous positions. And in a recent survey, half of companies either still have or recently abandoned a policy against hiring Boomerang employees “even if the employee left in good standing.”

Small-to medium-sized companies are particularly hard hit with the new employeremployee relationship, which has a large impact on the economy and the general condition of work around the country. Most people in this country, and indeed the world, do not work for large companies with sophisticated human resource departments. According the U.S. Census Bureau, while large enterprises (those with more than five hundred employees) employ a small majority of American workers (51.6 percent in 2012), 99 percent of U.S. establishments with payrolls have fewer than 250 employees. Firms with fewer than one hundred employees have the largest share of small business employment; very small enterprises-companies with fewer than twenty people—employ almost 20 percent of the American workforce. This does not count the self-employed who aren’t incorporated. Millions of people work for companies run by teams who wear many hats and may not have had the bandwidth or wherewithal to keep pace with the dramatic business and cultural changes that have occurred in the last decade while they worked to stay afloat.”


It is rare today for employees to stay with one organization for the long tenures that were the norm before the Great Recession. In fact, “job hopping” is the new norm, especially for Millennials. In The Boomerang Principle, companies learn how to leverage this fact rather than fear it. By engendering a lifetime of loyalty from former employees, leaders can see them “return” in the form of customers, partners, clients, advocates, contractors, and even returning employees.

Author Lee Caraher has built several companies and managed many Millennials along the way. In her first book, Millennials & Management, she shared her wisdom on how to get an intergenerational workforce to contribute to the larger goals of the organization. In this follow-up book, she shifts the emphasis to creating valuable, long-lasting relationships with your employees to ensure they remain your biggest fans, even if they leave the company.

The Boomerang Principle is a pragmatic answer to the outdated corporate mindset around employee turnover. Instead, it shifts the focus to creating lifetime loyalty from your alumni who will bring back business again and again.


Lee McEnany Caraher is the founder and CEO of Double Forte, a national public relations and digital media agency, based in San Francisco, that works with beloved consumer, technology, and wine brands. A sought-after communication strategist, Lee is known for her practical solutions to big problems. Her first book, Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making It Work at Work, was informed by her work helping organizations around the country create positive intergenerational workplaces.

Lee is active in her community, and sits on the board of directors or trustees of KQED Public Media, San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, and Menlo College. A graduate of Carleton College, Lee has a degree in medieval history which she finds useful every day. She lives on the San Francisco Peninsula with her husband, their sons, and Al, their blind cat.

This week’s selection ‘THE BOOMERANG PRINCIPLE’ by Lee Caraher appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

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