A cartoon showing two people standing on a green hill with a little black dog or cat. There are daisies in the foreground and a sky in the background.
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Faraway hills are greener: 69pc of workers would return to their pre-pandemic employer

7 Apr 2023

Two different polls of Irish workers revealed some opposing findings, but both indicate that employees want a return to pre-pandemic wages.

Workers in Ireland feel secure in their jobs, yet many have indicated that they are open to returning to an employer they left during the pandemic.

These somewhat conflicting findings come from two separate surveys on the Irish employment market, both released this week.

Irish recruitment firm PE Global and research agency Bounce Insights polled more than 1,000 workers from a variety of different sectors. The workers were asked how secure they felt in their current jobs. More than three quarters (76pc) said they felt secure.

Almost half (43pc) said they plan to stay with their current employer for more than four years with just one in ten expecting to leave their current job within the next year.

“This positive news highlights that despite the recent unsettling reports in relation to the current economic climate and layoffs in the technology sector, the vast majority of workers feel safe in their current role – which is very reassuring,” said Keith McDonagh, managing director at PE Global.

However, there was some indication from this poll that workers are concerned about their salaries, with 48pc saying they planned to ask for a raise this year to counter inflation.

Workers want more money to stay

“From this research, we can see that the majority of employees would like to stay with their current employer but that they will be requesting an increase in salary to do so,” added McDonagh. “Therefore, employers that offer packages to help to alleviate inflation, to new and existing employees, will help to attract and retain the right, qualified talent.”

While PE Global and Bounce Insights’ poll was largely positive, recruitment firm Robert Walters’ poll of 2,000 professionals found that many Irish workers are not happy in their current careers.

During the pandemic, Ireland experienced a shift in the labour market as workers left jobs in their droves in search of better pay and better work-life balance.

“The post-pandemic bounce back saw record numbers of employees leave their job in what was billed as ‘The Great Resignation.’ However our research indicates toward first signs of ‘The Great Regret’ – with an overwhelming number of professionals stating that they would be willing to return to their pre-Covid employer, a mere 18 months after leaving,” said Suzanne Feeney, country manager at Robert Walters Ireland.

According to the Robert Walters survey, 69pc of respondents said they were now open to returning to their pre-pandemic employer.

Half of these people said that the reasons they left their pre-pandemic employers were no longer applicable.

Just under half (45pc) of those polled said that their current employer is no longer meeting their needs, leaving them regretting that they left their previous employers.

‘Grass may not have been greener’

“Across 2021 we saw record pay rises offered to professionals, with promises of a flexible and hybrid culture,” said Feeney. “Come 2023, and these pay rises now pale in comparison to the rising cost of living and inflation – with those new starters who were offered inflated salaries being much less likely to have received a pay increase this year.”

“It appears that workers are realising that the grass may not have been greener after all,” she added.

As many as 80pc of respondents admitted that they are still in some form of contact with a previous manager. Almost a third (31pc) said that this was for keeping an eye out for future job openings.

Only a fifth of employees have completely shut the door on previous employers. When asked if they would consider returning to a former employer, 20pc of respondents said they would if the rewards package was better.

Managers, on the other hand, did not seem as eager to welcome departed employees back into the fold. Almost half (46pc) of managers said they would be hesitant to welcome back a so-called ‘boomerang employee’.

One fifth of employers said they would consider it if the employee had been exceptionally good at their job.

Feeney said that managers need to “swallow their pride” and recognise that this is currently one of the most candidate short markets Ireland has seen in decades. She said that hiring back boomerang employees could be a solution to the skills shortage crisis, particularly as returning employees would already be familiar with the business.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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