For over a century, people leaving Greece to immigrate to other countries has worried social planners, company recruiters and Greek Mothers. The financial crisis and resulting social upheaval in Greece in the last 10 years has accentuated the rate of departure of talented Greeks, called the “brain drain.”

To assure our readers, there are plenty of talented Greeks still here, but what of these outbound flows of people? HR executives have asked me how they might reverse this trend or fight against it and get people to stay or return. Enticing people to stay is the topic of other columns, but for this one, let me explore inviting people to return or how to reverse the brain drain.

To reverse it, one must understand it. Yes, the cuts in salaries and opportunities for exciting and interesting jobs (and promotional possibilities) has resulted in many professionals and others considering immigration. Attending Universities in other countries has been a popular way to explore the world for many decades. Once they graduate, how do you entice more to return?

People also leave for adventure. They might choose to stay after graduating from University because they want to explore what it is like living and working in another country. Sometimes, specific other countries offer more opportunities for advancement. They are seeking adventure of a different culture. You cannot lure them back until they have had a chance to have their adventure, enjoy the creature comforts and better pay of the new country. Many companies make impressive efforts to recruit “young people” back to Greece. I think they are targeting the wrong demographic group for this to work.

I believe the best time to bring someone back is at a mid-life crisis. It is precisely when they are wondering what’s next. They are asking themselves, “Is this all there is?” or they are feeling bored or restless. A mid-life crisis (or when emotionally more moderate, a mid-life transition) is a period of 2-5 years in which a person seeks novelty and growth. This could be the best timing for an effective recruitment message.

Of course, this means they are older. I would recommend targeting people who are 38-42, 48-52, and 58-62 to bring back. You get commitment and eagerness to come home, not a sense of having lost an opportunity. You might also get a spouse or partner who is not Greek, but they might be ready for a foreign adventure in Greece. Plus, it is better to reach people when they have a sound financial base in their life- which means later.

The Ντολμάδες and Παπουτσάκια Approach
Specifics of how to do this would be to unleash Greek Mothers. Get them round trip plane tickets to Boston, London, Melbourne, or Paris. Ask them to prepare and package their best Ντολμάδες and Παπουτσάκια. Don’t use guilt, remind the ex-pats what they are missing. Work on the deeper emotional ties to one’s home and homeland, and all of the cultural aspects. It would be difficult for many Greek Mothers not to use some form of guilt, but their cooking might do what complicated, psychological attempts at brain washing cannot. The strongest emotions and oldest ones in the human brain come from the olefactory lobe. That means smelling the cooking is a powerful drug!

Other techniques involve variations on this same theme: isn’t it time to come home? I have witnesses other countries use this quite effectively and proactively in getting their ex-pats home.

I am sure many of you have spent far more time on this than I have. So we are interested in what you think. What techniques do you think might work? Should we work on this at all or is it like global climate change—it will happen whether we want it to or not? We would be eager to publish the variety of ideas and your reactions to them in a future column.
Please send your reactions to [email protected] or Antonia Katsoulieri ([email protected]).