As great resignation trend slows, here’s how companies are enticing ex-employees back
There was muted celebration in HR departments across the U.S. when, on Apr. 4, the latest data release on employment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the Great Resignation may have finally slowed down – if not quit – in some so-called knowledge-working industries. However, the trend was still evident in many blue-collar industries.
“It’s no surprise that blue-collar workers are continuing their exodus while office workers have quickly realized the grass probably isn’t greener,” said Leslie Tarnacki, global CHRO for WorkForce Software. She argued the findings proved that if employees were handed the flexibility, autonomy, and “proper tools to fulfill their roles efficiently,” they were “far more likely” to stay with their organizations.
Michigan-based Tarnacki explained the slowdown of the Great Resignation for desked workers. “Much of it was spurred by a demand for flexibility and better work-life balance, which most employers have been able to deliver in some way with remote working and flexible hours,” she said. “For front-line and deskless shift workers, demands have not been so easily met.”
What should business leaders of blue-collar workers take away from the new Bureau of Labor Statistics data? How can they, too, halt the ongoing Great Resignation trend for good?
Tarnacki championed the “stay interview” – especially now, during global financial uncertainty. “Employees have concerns about a potential recession and job security. Knowing that their current employer cares about their experience, work situation, and professional ambitions makes all the difference,” she added.
Boosting boomerang employees
More than ever, even if employees are persuaded to depart, there are many benefits to encouraging them while at the organization and keeping in touch when they exit, said Jamie Kohn, director of research at Gartner HR. “According to Gartner’s Candidate Survey, former employees’ willingness to boomerang varies by their sentiment towards their previous job when they left.”
Therefore, leaders should “target those that leave with positive feelings” and reengage with them to better understand why they were tempted away and make necessary changes. For instance, Gartner’s research found that 50% of employees were likely to return if offered an improved work-life balance.
“In attracting boomerangs to return, leaders need to build a tailored package to increase the appeal of a new role,” said Kohn. “Workers are unlikely to settle into their old roles under the same conditions, so leaders need to understand what would motivate them.”
She added that if employees believe their organization “didn’t recognize their value and create career paths for them, they will leave with a negative perception of that company.”
Moreover, by investing the time and energy into addressing ex-workers’ “negative perceptions resulting from past experiences,” HR departments could evolve quicker and improve the organization’s appeal for everyone, Kohn urged.
“Leaders must be open and honest about the challenges former employees faced. It’s an important lesson, which applies to engaging potential boomerangs, but you need to fix what’s broken,” she added.
Recognition programs and internal moves
In the U.K., people management platform Employment Hero conducted a nationwide survey in March that also suggested that the Great Resignation had peaked. The research found that the number of people who wanted their next job to be at a different company had dropped from 61% in 2021 to 36% now.
This theme was echoed by Salt Lake City resident Dr. Lindsey Zuloaga, chief data scientist at recruitment platform HireVue. She acknowledged a “subtle shift,” as employees favored moving into roles within their organization rather than leaving. Her company’s recent Global Trends Report showed 48% of employers were increasingly prioritizing internal candidates to resolve the talent shortage.
Similarly, the HireVue research hinted that employees were more willing to develop their careers within the current organization, with 54% stating they would rather change roles than switch companies. There seems to be a softening of attitudes on both sides, although the onus is on employers to try to recruit and retain staff.
“Talent shortages continue to plague hiring managers, so turning to their existing pool of internal talent to fill gaps is a productive solution,” said Zuloaga. “Employees feel more comfortable staying with organizations longer as employers provide greater stability and clear career progression.” She noted that 45% of businesses had added employee recognition programs.
Laura Baldwin, president of the learning and media company O’Reilly, underlined the importance of focusing on employees’ career development rather than dangling a bigger paycheck. “The problem with focusing on salaries is that it is unsustainable for businesses in the long run and ultimately does not deliver what employees want: meaningful work within value-driven organizations,” she said. “A higher paycheck will only keep dissatisfaction from the door for a limited time before the promise of a better opportunity calls,” she added.
Instead of fighting for new talent, leaders should prioritize retention, Baldwin stated. Questions for employees included: “How do employees feel the impact of their work so they are more deeply connected to the wider organization? Do they have the appropriate training and tools at their disposal? Is there a clear path to promotion or growth?”