The Great Regret: Recouping Staff After the Great Resignation

If you lost good workers during the great resignation, it might be the right time to reach out and try to rehire them.


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The Great Regret: Recouping Staff After the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation of 2021 hit employers where it hurt most: headcount. Almost 50 million Americans quit their jobs, looking for better wages and opportunities elsewhere. The ensuing chaos put pressure on everyone — the employees left behind to maintain coverage and production, and the recruitment staff scrambled to hire.

Wage wars were the norm, as businesses struggled to counter-offer employees that turned in their notice. Some organizations found themselves priced out of the market. For others, workers left without any notice at all — pressured by the new employer to start immediately.

In 2022 a good percentage of the workers who left for ‘greener pastures’ are regretting that decision. A recent Harris Poll survey for USA TODAY found around 20% of those who left wish they’d stayed put. Only 26% of 2,000 respondents said they liked their new jobs enough to stay. This may be good news for business leaders that lost talent during the resignation wave. You may be able to capitalize on that regret and recover lost employees.

Why the great resignation regret?

The survey found that of those workers who weren’t happy with their decision to move, 36% felt they lost ‘work/life balance.’ Another response was not surprising — 30% said the role was different than they expected:

  • 24% said they missed the culture at their old job
  • The same amount said they didn’t properly weigh the pros and cons before quitting

These numbers suggest businesses may be well poised to poach their ex-employees back into the fold. It might take a bit of bravery to make those initial calls. However, considering those staff members may not only be regretting their decision to leave but could actually come back and hit the ground running, it’s worth the effort.

The Muse conducted another survey and found that 72% of workers experienced some form of shock after making a move — 29% said it was the job and the company.

Still not convinced? The Muse conducted another survey named the regret ‘Shift Shock.’ They found that 72% of workers experienced some form of shock after making a move — 29% said it was the job and the company.

The good news from the survey is that:

  • “48% said they would try to get their old job back if they felt shift shock in their new company
  • 80% said it was acceptable to leave a new position in six months or less if they weren’t happy”

If your ex-talent is within (or near) that window, you may be striking at precisely the right time with an offer to return.

Re-opening the door

Assuming you lost employees you want back, a good way to start exploring if they’re unhappy where they landed might be through colleagues who are still at your company. Friends they still connect with may be able to tell you if their ex-coworker is happy with the new position or regretting their choice.

You don’t want to pressure existing employees into doing recruitment for you — but it doesn’t hurt to ask. A casual ‘do you still talk to XYZ? Let them know they’re always welcome back’ might be all that’s needed to get the ball rolling.

Consider making it a company-wide effort

Let your staff know if they’re missing a colleague they still talk to, they can pass along that the door is open for the person who left to return. You might want to offer a referral bonus to employees who get exes back on the payroll:

  • Staff members get a small payment
  • Their bestie is back on the job
  • You save on recruitment and training costs

Everybody wins.

When it comes time to fill a spot, your first phone call should be to an excellent worker who has left the fold.

HR and hiring managers have all the data they need to initiate calls to exes. A text, voice message, or email asking if they’re interested in discussing returning is all that’s needed. If they respond, you’re ahead of the recruitment game. If not, you know it’s time to move forward with a new hire.

Your ex-employees may be embarrassed they made a move in haste or think they’ve burned bridges. When you initiate a call to recruit, you’ve alleviated those concerns. We’ve all made bad choices — but all is forgiven!

How to entice your resignation exes

Former employees may have made the switch for more reasons than ‘I think it’s time for a change.’ As you plan to re-recruit, look through the employee’s exit interview materials to see if you can hone in on any specifics.

If you’re prepared to work with them on the issues that prompted them to leave, you may stand a better chance of getting them to return.

Money talks

For some, more money was the enticement. You may need to increase wages to get them back. In today’s market, the salary you didn’t think you could match when they left may be less than what you have to offer now. With the history and expertise they bring to the job, a bump in pay may be much less expensive in the long run.

If wages were the reason they left, discuss how you can bring them back at a rate that works for everyone. You may not have to match what they’re earning at the new job — they’re already unhappy there — but a compromise increase may be all that’s needed.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

Remote control

For many employees, the reason to leave was having to return to on-site work. Working from home for over a year was hard to give up. Employees were better able to manage work and family obligations. When the call to get back to the office came, many found new jobs that didn’t require on-site. While they were able to work from home in the new role, the work itself might not be working out.

If returning to the office was the issue, your company is not alone. Even top employers are finding the need to threaten staff with termination if they don’t return to on-site work, at least part-time.

If remote work worked for you during the pandemic, is there a way to continue it to recover lost talent?

The Harris survey showed that 36% of respondents felt they lost work/life balance when they made a job change; another 24% missed the culture of their old position. You may be able to negotiate a hybrid arrangement to rehire.

These instances may be an opportunity to offer an ex-employee a chance to regain some of that balance. Open a discussion on how to make it work for you, them, and their coworkers. You may find a happy medium.

Resignation career blues

Another study from Pew Research found that, after salary, the top two reasons employees left their job were:

  • No opportunities for advancement
  • Feeling unappreciated on the job

If they regret making a move, you may be in a unique position to entice them back based on one or both of these sentiments.

Certainly, calling an ex-employee to come back signals that while you may not have been outwardly appreciative of their work and work ethic before, you are now. Let them know how much they’ve been missed as a colleague and an employee. You may be able to bring them back with the right measure of appreciation.

If advancement was the issue, make moving up the ladder part of your offer if they return. Succession planning is key to retaining top talent. If you lost great staff members because they didn’t have a clear career trajectory, work with them to plan for the future as part of their return package.

A chance for everyone to have a fresh start

The pandemic changed the way we work and do business. For many organizations, flexibility will be the road back to success. If you lost good workers, it might be the right time to reach out and try to rehire them.

The worst that could happen is they’ll be flattered and decline. In the best case, you recover a valued staff member that hits the ground running.



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