Brief insights on returnship programmes

17 Jul 2019 / 11:44 H.

ENCOURAGING skilled workers who have taken career breaks back into the workforce could help businesses struggling with skill shortages, says recruiting experts Hays.

Career breaks are becoming more common in the world of work, as workers are taking time out of their career to care for loved ones, study, raise a family or deal with long-term illness. The length of a person’s career is expected to increase in the future alongside life expectancy, meaning professionals are also more likely to take career breaks.

To attract and harness the experience and skills of this potential pool of talented workers, some businesses are creating returnship programmes - a new tool in the hiring strategies of organisations. There are several large firms already adopting this approach, they include PayPal, Willmott Dixon, Target, Microsoft, Unilever, IBM, Vodafone and Dell.

Says Hays Malaysia managing director, Tom Osborne: “Some organisations are failing to operate at their full potential due to skills shortages. One effective way of combatting this is by bringing those people with vital skills back into the workforce, so some businesses are starting to ensure they have an effective returnship programme in place.”

At present returnship programmes are generally aimed at professionals who have been out of work for up to two years. These programmes usually involve formal paid placements which may lead to permanent employment. What differentiates the placements, company-to-company, is the level of support that is available to ease the transition back into work, which can include buddying schemes, training or mentorships.

Many organisations are also using returnship programmes as an opportunity to address diversity, as many professionals who leave the workplace are women who leave to raise a family. With diversity high on the agenda for many businesses, this is an important strategy to ensure they have a workforce which is more representative of their customer base. To ensure the returnship programmes are attractive, most companies offer part-time or flexible positions before full-time roles later.

“The costs of a returnship programme is high, so businesses must be aware and realistic when starting the schemes. They should make sure that the return is seen as a worthwhile investment and that it is being implemented to maximum effect.

“Organisations should start by identifying where there are skills shortages in their business, or which area would benefit from diversity.”

Returnship programmes are highly beneficial to the professionals too as it provides them with the opportunity to relaunch their careers and even up-skill. Taking time away from work may mean that some professionals have missed out on some vital developments within their area of expertise; these programmes allow them to transition back into the workforce, ultimately making them more employable.

Tips for introducing returnship programmes:

Use quality data or evidence for building the business case for a returnship programme. For example, assess where potential skills gaps are and where returners would fit into the business model to plug these.

State aims and objectives from the outset.

Better to start small and then expand the programme gradually rather than being too ambitious from day one. It also allows for one to remain flexible and more bespoke.

Keep returnees connected with the group to ensure they have the support they need. Provide them with a point of contact who they can turn to for any issues. Evaluate the programme through feedback to explore best practices.

Garner senior-level sponsorship and buy-in from the wider business. For example, ensure that managers running projects and hiring managers are trained and fully briefed.

If placements are run in different regions, ensure that knowledge and best practice are shared so that there is consistency of experience for returners and there is focus and one direction.

[This article was courtesy of Hays, global recruitment experts.]

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