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How After-Lifecycle Surveys Can Engage Alumni and Explain Attrition

How After-Lifecycle Surveys Can Engage Alumni and Explain Attrition

With the Great Resignation possibly giving way to a not-so-great recession, employees may find themselves rethinking the decisions they made about leaving a former employer for a new one. Attrition during the first year of employment has spiked over the past two years, with soon-to-be-released Perceptyx research showing that 6 in 10 employees who recently left their roles feel regret about the decision.

At the same time, employers still looking to fill jobs in a labor market that remains surprisingly tight despite negative GDP growth might see value in rehiring some of their departed staff. As employee tenure has decreased, the value of relationship building post-exit has become more obvious, as emphasized by LinkedIn’s first CHRO and Cadigan Talent Ventures founder Steve Cadigan in a recent keynote.

To illuminate that point, Perceptyx panel research of more than 1,000 working Americans shows that extending employee lifecycle surveys beyond exit surveys to include alumni surveys of former workers provides a clear competitive advantage. Such surveys — sometimes characterized as “after-lifecycle” surveys to indicate they are engaging employees who have ended their employee lifecycle with a given organization — can help you improve the existing employee experience by offering data-driven insights into the reasons these employees left

After-lifecycle surveys can also serve as a powerful recruitment tool for “boomerang” employees. Perceptyx research found that on average, employees would consider returning to 72% of the employers they had over the past five years given the right opportunity.

The Value of “Boomerangs”

Finding ways to pull former employees back into your organization offers a tremendous return on investment. The number of these employees spiked during the Great Recession. Earlier this month, a BBC deep dive into LinkedIn data found that 5% of all new hires in the UK in 2021 were former employees who returned after leaving. In the US, the BBC found that these workers accounted for 4.3% of all hires last year, versus only 2% in 2010. Boomerang velocity has also increased: the average US worker who came back took 17.3 months to return to a past employer in 2021, versus 21.8 months in 2010.  Boomeranging, a practice formerly held in low regard by employers reluctant to rehire employees thought to be “job hopping,” has become more accepted as the pandemic imposed numerous constraints: childcare, safety for immunocompromised people, financial concerns related to supply chain shortages and inflation, all of which increased attrition and led to tight labor pools in key areas. Perceptyx research has shown that when attributes of the Employee Value Proposition most attractive to employees are being met, employees are more likely to stay — and putting those attributes in place the second time around could make a significant difference in terms of boomerang retention.     

The value of rehires also has support in the academic literature. A recent study of 2,053 new hires and 10,858 new hires in the Academy of Management Journal found that returning employees consistently outperformed new employees, with the majority of that benefit accruing to the employer during the first two years after rehire — an indication of how profound the costs of recruiting, training, and development of new employees can be. Additionally, these boomerangs can return to their original employers with a deeper knowledge of competitor practices and the overall state of the industry in which they work.

After-Lifecycle Listening for the Sounds — and Voices — of Employees

Given the obvious benefits of employee alumni networks, utilizing listening to access this pool of valuable candidates and the insights they can provide would rebound to the benefit of organizations. After-lifecycle surveys that are conducted six months after an exit could hit the sweet spot in terms of capturing the attention of dissatisfied or disengaged employees. 

With Perceptyx’s Sense lifecycle product, for example, after-lifecycle surveys could be automated so that an invite is triggered based on the termination date in the employee’s HRIS file. To capture a sufficiently large pool of respondents, you would want to ensure this invite is sent to everyone who was voluntarily terminated and had good/high performance ratings. (Protip: Make sure you are capturing a valid personal email address and/or phone number as part of your off-boarding process, particularly for regrettable losses, as a way to build a target audience for future alumni listening.)

The optimal employees to include in after-lifecycle surveys would be:

  • Employees who voluntarily left the organization between 1-3 years ago
  • Employees who were top performers or potential high performers 
  • Employees who served in mission-critical roles or have specialized skills 

After-lifecycle surveys can uncover the current engagement levels of these former employees with an item that addresses their intention to return to a previous employer: “I would consider returning to [The Company] in the next twelve months if given the opportunity.” This data could be further filtered along the lines of gender and race/ethnicity, and even compared with prior data on their engagement in the organization to see if they are more or less engaged with their new employer. 

All of this data, in turn, leads to the generation of key drivers that predict “intent to return”, an enormous strategic benefit in the competition for industry-specific talent.  After-lifecycle surveys can also revisit questions assessed on prior exit surveys to understand how perceptions may have changed since the individual departed your organization.

After-Lifecycle Survey Design 

A carefully designed after-lifecycle survey has the potential to unlock a vast new world of data-driven insights for your organization: insights that would support HR not just with continuous improvement initiatives related to the employee experience, but also with ongoing recruiting efforts.   

Recommended items for an effective after-lifecycle survey could include:

  • “The industry I work in now is comparable to the one I worked in at [The Company].”
    • If it is not, an open-ended question can be asked: “What is the primary reason you chose to leave this industry?”
  • “The role I have now is comparable to the one I had at [The Company].”
    • If it is not, another open-ended question can be asked: “What is the primary reason you chose to change the type of role in which you work?”
  • “Please select the main reason you chose to work for your current employer.”
    • This could be followed by a dropdown list that includes benefits and perks as an option, as well as an open-text area to specify what the benefit/perk is. This approach can be especially valuable if you are interested in building or amending your employee value proposition through the input of regrettable attrition.
  • “Would you be open to someone at [The Company] reaching out to you about open positions we have now or in the future?”
    • If yes is selected, the respondent would be prompted to provide their phone number, email address, and other pertinent contact information.
  • “Now that you’ve had some time away from working at [The Company], is there anything else that has come to mind that you would like to share with us about your experience here?” (open-ended question) 
  • “What does your new employer do better than [The Company]?” (open-ended question)
  • “What did [The Company] do better than your current employer?” (open-ended question)

To summarize, the aims of after-lifecycle surveying highlighted here are:

  • Understanding why the employee left the industry, if they did so.
  • Determining what the employee thought about their experience with your organization, given the benefit of some time and distance (e.g., six months) to inform their perspective.
  • Learning what a new employer organization might be doing better or worse than yours, according to former employees. (This information is obviously more valuable if the other employer is in the same industry.)
  • Communicating to alumni — potential boomerang candidates — the message that:
    • They are not forgotten, 
    • Their feedback is valued, and
    • Their potential return is welcomed when the opportunity is right for both the individual and the organization.

Perceptyx Helps You See More So You Can Do More With Alumni Employees

In a challenging labor market, your employee alumni, especially regrettable losses, represent a valuable and largely untapped talent pool. Many former employees are open to boomerang opportunities and have the added benefit of already knowing your organizational culture and values.

Perceptyx has the knowledge, consulting expertise, and listening platform to help you access this untapped resource and capture all of the data and perspectives that your former employees can provide. Schedule a meeting to learn more about adding after-lifecycle surveys to your employee listening program.

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