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The Great Return: What Does it Mean for Employers?

We’ve all heard of the Great Resignation. 

In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the labour market experienced what we know now as the Great Resignation. Over 47 million people resigned from their jobs during 2021. That’s a lot. Employees started to re-evaluate their priorities and left their jobs in search of positions elsewhere with better pay, career growth opportunities, and relief from burnout. 

This left the labour market in trouble as employers scrambled to replace employees. Now nearly 80% percent of employees regret their decision and want their old jobs back…leading us to the Great Return of 2023. 


What is the Great Return? 

The Great Return refers to the anticipated return of employees to the labour market.  

Employees who left their jobs in 2021 and 2022 during the Great Resignation have come to regret their decision once the “honeymoon phase” of their new job is over. They’ve found themselves regretful because they left to pursue higher salaries, benefits, or a different culture, even if it meant accepting a position that’s not the right fit. 

As a result, employees want their old jobs back. But it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Employers may experience some setbacks with the Great Return, including:  

  1. An increased demand for higher wages, better benefits, and opportunities for career growth from employees returning to work. 
  2. Employees who have been out of the labour market for a prolonged time may need to retrain or upskill to meet the ever-evolving demands of the workforce.  
  3. Competition for top talent which might result in salary increases. Employers then might have to consider whether increasing the pay of returning employees impacts pay transparency 

Additionally, there may be differences in the types of jobs available in the post-pandemic labour market, with some industries experiencing a greater demand for employees than others. Many industries have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and the economic downturn. Organizations have been navigating workforce management challenges such as reduced hours, hiring freezes, and mass layoffs. These difficulties have persisted and continue to impact businesses across various sectors. 

These factors can all impact the ability of employees to return the workforce. With that being said, there are opportunities for employers during the Great Return as well. 


What opportunities does the Great Return present for employers? 
  1. New employees, fresh ideas: Employers can create job openings and opportunities for those who are looking to advance in their careers or switch to a new field. This can bring in new employees with innovative ideas and perspectives! 
  2. Improved retention efforts: The Great Return offers an opportunity for employers to focus on their retention strategies to retain current employees as well as new/returning ones. Download our free Retention Strategy Framework to map out your retention strategy! 
  3. Developing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion): As companies look to attract and retain a diverse workforce, they will need to adopt more inclusive policies and practices. Not sure where to start? Get in touch! 


How can employers make the Great Return a smooth transition?

For a smooth transition, employers should take the Great Return as an opportunity to re-examine current employment strategies and consider what your work environment needs to look like for the future. This might include promoting a healthy work-life balance, flexible working conditions, and humanizing both the employee and candidate experience. 

Employers may also want to focus on prioritizing retention strategies. This might look like providing career growth opportunities for employees, training for skills development, and supporting with learning opportunities.  


What’s next?  

Overall, the Great Return presents both opportunities and challenges for employers and businesses. 

But the reality is that no two situations will be the same. Every employer will be impacted differently by the Great Return – and some not at all. 

One thing is for certain: if you’re facing the challenges of a rocky and unstable labour market, you’re not alone. Connect with us to learn how we can support you during the Great Return. Whether it’s with developing an efficient retention strategy or navigating the return of employees, we’re here to help.