What is The Great Return?

employee returning to their previous employer
By Caroline Gammon | 6th April 2022 | 3 min read

For the last year, headlines have been dominated by stories covering the current recruitment crisis, labelled The Great Resignation; however, new research shows that 1 in 5 UK employees have either returned to their previous employer or plan to in the near future.

This new employee phenomenon is being branded as boomeranging, with some referring to it as The Great Return.

But what does this sudden change in employee behaviour mean for businesses?

The research’s findings

The research conducted by Unum UK found that 36% of respondents are returning to previous employers due to work culture and better employee benefits.

Also cited as reasons for return were:

  • Flexible/hybrid working
  • Offers of promotion
  • Better environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) commitments

What’s causing the surge in employees returning?

Some employees may have left for promotion or pay increases, but upon working for their new employer, they’ve realised the environment doesn’t work for them and subsequently look to return.

Business behaviour could also be fuelling the boomeranging.

As businesses recover post-pandemic, we may be seeing employers looking to bring back talented employees that unfortunately had to be made redundant due to financial reasons.

The impact on businesses

Does the surge in returning employees mean that businesses can take their feet off the gas regarding their employment initiatives?

Not at all.

While the research suggests that a notable portion of employees will look to return to their previous employer in the next five years, those returning are still seeking a positive work environment and career opportunities.

If anything, an added focus is needed on updating your workplace initiatives and policies to entice those who have left to return, alongside attracting new talent.

Pay and promotion considerations

When looking to bring back employees, considerations are required before offering increased pay and promotions.

While progression and incentives are important, disproportionate pay may dishearten existing employees who have held the fort during the storm.

If you have a new higher position, invite internal candidates and returning employees to interview, ensuring you employ the best person for the job.

By offering the opportunity to both parties, you make it clear that the process was conducted in a fair and unbiased manner.

What can businesses do to become sought-after employers?

Outside of simply increasing pay, take the research’s findings and utilise them as guidelines when looking to optimise your workplace.

1) Emphasise learning and development

Studies show that learning & development are often ranked as one of the most important parts of a job, right behind salary.

Work with employees to create an environment that enables them to grow, take on new responsibilities and progress in line with their aspirations.  

2) Offer a hybrid working model

A topic that has become incredibly saturated since the pandemic, but still rings true, is hybrid working.

Many employees now expect some level of hybrid working, and businesses that don’t consider this will find their staff swiftly leaving for a different employer.

Are you unsure whether permanent hybrid working is right for your business? Check out our informative blog here.

3) Prioritise your employee value proposition (EVP)

An EVP is the value your employees perceive from working at your business outside of their base salary.

This can range from aligning your ESG commitments heavily with employee beliefs to making that extra effort to foster team spirit.

By prioritising your employee value proposition, not only will you create an environment that entices leavers and new talent, but you’ll also improve the chances of retaining your staff.

Find more tips on bettering your EVP here.

People-focused businesses will draw employees back

The resounding message from the recent study is that The Great Return will be something that people-focused businesses can capitalise on.

Those who have invested in their HR processes and employees will be in a better position to draw in both new and existing talent.

If you’re looking for HR software that can help further optimise your people processes – click here.