Companies ease employees back to ‘tap new talent pool’
Helping employees back into the workforce after an extended career break has always been a tricky conundrum for managers and HR professionals. But now it’s getting some serious attention – with a sexy new name to boot.
The concept of ‘returnships’ has been imported from the US – it’s a form of internship aimed at easing returnees back into work – and is being heralded as a way of targeting women who left the labour market to have children, as well as those who may have taken time out due to long-term illness or to look after relatives.
“Hiring managers look at the CVs of potential returnees and see a lack of recent work experience,” says Julianne Miles, co-founder of specialist consultancy Women Returners. “Employers often worry whether they are serious about coming back in, or how long it will take returnees to get back up to speed. But these women have fantastic experience spanning many years.”
Miles says returnships can offer professionals a non-linear route back to work. In contrast to their more junior namesakes, they are paid at professional rates and take place over a fixed period of between 10-12 weeks and six months. The returnee should be working on a “meaty project” rather than doing the photocopying, Miles adds. “It should be CV-worthy work, giving the employer the opportunity to try before they buy, while the returnee brings their knowledge back up to speed.” The openings aren’t restricted to those returning to the same firm.
Employers in the financial services sector have embraced the idea, with the first returnship programme appearing at Goldman Sachs in 2008. In the UK, Credit Suisse launched a 10-week ‘Real Returns’ scheme last April and Morgan Stanley plans to run a pilot in London starting this September following the success of its programme in New York. This pilot will include training and networking support, aimed at candidates who are likely to have around five years or more financial services or relevant industry experience.
Edleen John, director of Morgan Stanley’s diversity and inclusion team, says: “We decided to pilot a return to work programme in London because we recognise there’s a talent pool out there that hasn’t been tapped previously. We are always focused on diversifying our workforce and looking at innovative ways to get new talent into the organisation.
“We understand they’ve been out of the workforce, so they will need time to reintegrate and some will need to upskill themselves in relation to the role they’ll be doing,” she says.
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