While some are convinced we are seeing (and will continue to see) a ‘Great Return’ in response to the ‘Great Resignation’, others are less sure that workers are boomeranging en masse to their old employer and believe it may take a few years for the trend to come to volition.
This is because an underlying cause of the ‘Great Resignation’ is looking for more meaningful work, so “it is hard to envision a future where there’s a significant trend towards returning to previous employers”.
Why would employees risk returning to companies where they were under-valued and over-worked to the point of burnout?
Although Gartner’s HR practice research director Jamie Kohn is more optimistic about the ‘Great Return’ trend, she admits that “employers won’t win back former employees [who] feel they are unfairly treated, especially when it comes to raises, promotions, workloads or personal support”.
Sundaram is also very clear that, if the ‘Great Return’ was to happen, there are many issues with rehiring employees. Could focusing on attracting back boomerang workers in the ‘Great Return’ undo the great work being done around equality, fairness, and inclusivity at work?
Is hiring boomerang workers biased and nepotistic?
A major issue with ‘Great Return’ for Sundaram is that “rehiring old employees leaves room for non-objective practices, such as nepotism” in the recruitment process, which is a form of hiring bias.
The crème de la crème of hiring, unbiased recruitment, “should never focus on any single group. Positive action is obviously an exception”. “Tech can be used to attract the best person for the job, but tech shouldn’t be used to target former employees and exclude other groups”, argues Sundaram.
It also creates the issue that you “might miss out on hiring somebody new who would have been a better fit for the role”, explains Sundaram. A “risk is that hiring managers will equate previous experience…with being a good fit”.
Dare Worldwide CEO Rita Trehan adds that “just because [former employees” were a great fit for your organization previously [that] doesn’t mean they will be the right now”. This is especially the case if the employer has worked hard to improve its workplace and company culture.
Instead of focusing on upping their alumni networks and referral incentives to bring boomerang employees back to the company, Sundaram call on employees to use a “skills-based hiring process”. She claims it increases retention rates by 13% and reduces promotion times from three years to one year.
“If the boomerang candidate’s skills align with those required, talent managers will then be able to select them without bias feeding into the process”, according to Sundaram.
Could it lead to a second ‘Great Resignation’?
A feeling of unfairness in the hiring process could cause employees to start thinking could boomerang employees not only be prioritized in recruitment, but also in promotions?
This may lead to resentment from employees who stayed loyal during the pandemic.
This is definitely possible given that research shows that boomerang workers are paid up to $10,000 more annually than those who stayed.
“Organizations are paying a premium for external talent, and that creates pay inequalities amongst current employees”, according to Kohn. “Employees who remained with the organization may react negatively to boomerangs, as they might be viewed as having played the system for a raise.”
Alstrom agrees. “When rehiring someone it is important to level the playing field as much as possible within the current members of the team. If they see someone coming back on high pay and with greater perks, they might also be tempted to look elsewhere”.
Therefore, this resentment begs the question whether the ‘Great Return’ could actually trigger a second ‘Great Resignation’? Could employees see the ‘Great Return’ as leading to more bias and unfairness at work and therefore quit for a better employer?
Sundaram believes the ‘Great Return’ if it happens, could trigger another wave of resignations.
She explains that employees value ethical and inclusive practices, particularly younger generations, and so “it is entirely possible that employees would turn away from a company” that was biased in recruitment, promotion and pay.
Either way, Trehan concludes that the ‘Great Return’ and the ‘Great Resignation’ are showing just how turbulent the talent market is at the moment. “Employers will be taking a risk with their talent retention if they think it will be business as normal anytime”.
Therefore, the best things that employers can do is look inwards and make sure they are an attractive place to work for both new employees and boomerang workers if they want to succeed in the current, and potentially future, competitive war for talent.
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