Companies Seek to Woo Employees Who Quit the Workforce

Employers, desperate to hire new employees and keep their workforce happy, are making offers to employees who quit their jobs during the pandemic as a new tactic to bolster their ranks.

Employers nationwide are trying to fill the huge hole in the labor market left by millions of resignations last year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 4.3 million people voluntarily quit their jobs in December 2021, slightly below a record high in November 2021.

The number of current job openings (10.9 million) exceeds the number of new hires (6.3 million). In a McKinsey survey of almost 600 workers who quit without another job in hand, 44% said that they have little to no interest in returning in the next six months. At the same time, 47% returned to the workforce ­– almost a quarter took up nontraditional work, while 76% went back to traditional employment. The latter group cited workplace flexibility, adequate compensation and reasonable expectations about performance as top factors in their decision to return. Only 21% went back to work in the same sector and assumed roles at a similar level as those they left.

McKinsey research shows that 25% of the employees who voluntarily left and then returned (to both traditional and nontraditional roles) are at least somewhat likely to leave their current employers in the next three to six months. They say that if professional development, workplace flexibility, support for mental and physical health, and other needs aren’t being met at one company, they will look elsewhere.

Factors to consider:

  • Pay and benefits ­–Pay transparency is at an all-time high. If current employees find out that the company is offering higher pay to new hires or otherwise changing pay practices to attract new employees, be prepared to hear requests for raises. A reasonable life-work balance is key to wooing employees back to the workforce. “What if you subsidized cleaning services instead of gym memberships? Or what if you invested in on-site child care services that would allow employees to eat lunch with their children?”
  • A ”sticky” workplace – McKinsey advises listening to employees, anticipating and addressing their concerns, fostering psychological safety and a sense of community, and measuring outcomes. Different types of scheduling and staffing innovations, extra days off, “well-being” bonuses, or paying for higher education may help.
  • Expand your talent pool – Those who left the workforce may be encouraged to return. Maybe they left the workforce during the pandemic to take care of their kids but schools are getting back to normal schedules. Based on conservative calculations, this untapped source of labor could be as many as 23 million people, McKinsey reports.
  • Use different tactics ­–“Instead of using the same old online hiring platforms and keeping their searches local, talent acquisition teams should think creatively about their referral programs – for instance, launching a personalized “phone two friends” campaign, asking existing employees to recruit within their networks – and acknowledge that the best candidates may be outside the immediate radius of the company’s headquarters.”

Employers must understand the many choices today’s workers have and find ways to compete against all those options. “The old playbooks won’t work,” the article says. “Even for those companies that end up figuring out how to bring some people back, there will be inevitable setbacks (and further waves of attrition) if they can’t figure out how to retain those workers.”


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