BrainReGain: What do those who returned to Greece say?

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The challenges of low wages and the working environment - The question of meritocracy - The hopes for more and better jobs - Half of the brain drain Greeks want to return to Greece

Three hundred fifty thousand Greeks - out of a total of 600,000 of the brain drain generation - returned to Greece, according to Eurostat data presented by the Minister of Finance, Kostis Hatzidakis, at the annual BrainReGain event on the topic: "Back to the roots: Challenges. Chances. Initiatives".

According to a study presented at the same event by Constantinos Kesentes, president of the BrainReGain initiative, one in two Greeks who live abroad today would like to return to Greece.

Low wages, inferior working conditions, and the absence of jobs equivalent to those they work today are the main reasons that keep "brain drain" Greeks abroad.

"The characteristics of the jobs that I saw available in Greece were below my expectations, in terms of the responsibilities, the working environment, the salaries, the development possibilities," said Georgia Moschovou, communications manager at VISA SE Europe, who until recently worked in the Netherlands. "There are bright exceptions, such as the company where I work today, but to find something similar requires a lot of searching by candidates. Progress has been made, and there are more and better jobs, which is why I came back now and not earlier. But there is definitely room for improvement."

37% of "brain drain" Greeks answered that they would like to work for a large multinational company if they were to return to Greece. Only 7% said they want to work in a large Greek company.

"I spent many nights, many months thinking if I really should go back. Raising my children in Greece was one of the main reasons we wanted to return. However, finding a job was the greatest difficulty I had to face. If I hadn't secured a job that brings me what I want, I don't know if I would have returned," admitted business consultant Eleni Petropoulou, who eventually found work through BrainReGain's Jobs in Greece platform as a banking consultant at Accenture Greece.

To date, 350 advertisements from 100 Greek companies have been uploaded to BrainReGain's Jobs in Greece platform, which is expected to increase as 84% ​​of Greek businesses state that they will be hiring in the next 12 months.

"Brain regain is a great opportunity for Greece", said Yannis Papachristou, managing director at ANT1 Group and member of BrainReGain's Board of Directors. "Greeks abroad can become a catalyst for social and economic innovation in the country, as they have been exposed to know-how and good practices of other countries. The state and business must do much more to attract them."

"Both my wife and I did not regret it for a single moment when we returned to Greece," said Kyriacos Sabatakakis, managing director of Accenture in Greece. "The country's branding has changed, and it is becoming a magnet for companies and workers from abroad. 11% of the top European AI researchers are Greek but don't work in Greece."

From new jobs to the shock of driving

Thirty-five percent of Greeks abroad ask for merit, transparency, and security as the first guarantees when returning to Greece. In second place - with 33% - comes the level of remuneration and benefits.

"Intimacy is one of the main positive characteristics of the workplace in Greece, and you feel more quickly like a team member," noted Dimitris Psarras, who returned to Greece in 2019. "But there is room for improvement in business policies."

"In the UK, there are recorded procedures for everything. This may cause bureaucracy, but at the same time, it gives the employee a feeling of organisation and security. It is also important that the employee evaluation process uses quantitative as well as qualitative characteristics. Companies in Greece must build an attractive working environment," he added.

"Among the negative experiences of returning to the country are the poor infrastructure and driving culture. I think I've broken a lot of mirrors trying to drive on Greek roads," Psarras said.

"Greek businesses must adapt their working environment to the new era", noted Aristotelis Panteliadis, president of METRO SA, who also returned from abroad.

"We have to learn to measure employee performance differently, not based on hours worked but on key performance indicators (KPIs) and the desired results. Let's ask ourselves how these fit with the digital job cards we impose on executives. Sometimes, our practices are incompatible with the goals we want to achieve. We have a lot of work to do to improve and make the working environment more attractive," he stressed.

According to a study by the BrainReGain initiative, 21% of Greeks abroad want to return to Greece immediately or in the next 12 months, which shows that ties with the country have yet to be severed.

Simela Touchtidou is a columnist for New Money.

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