Welcome back! How to make the returner process work for everyone

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers has shown that there are currently almost half a million professionally qualified women out of work. This is partly because it can prove tricky for women to return to their careers after taking time away to raise a family, look after a relative, retrain for a new career or even through sickness.

Getting back into work after an extended absence poses some specific problems for the returner and the employer alike. But it’s worth the effort to tackle these and create a process that makes the returner process easier for everyone.


10 July 2018

Why care about the returner process?


Encouraging mothers back into the workplace is a great way to tackle gender balance and the gender pay gap. It also gives businesses access to an otherwise untapped talent pool of experienced, skilled professionals - which is especially important in industries where there is a skills shortage.


By creating positions for returners, companies can improve their employer branding, broadening their attraction and boosting their retention by establishing themselves as a great team to work for.


Understanding what your returners need


The first step is for companies to really understand what their returners need. This best practice guide from the government on returner programmes talks about the importance of a supportive organisational culture as well as the need to refresh skills, knowledge and confidence.


The PricewaterhouseCoopers study mentioned above also tells us that “a significant proportion of part-time career returners say they would be happy to work more hours if there was more flexibility at other times (e.g. during school holidays).” Flexible working patterns are especially important for returning parents who still have childcare needs.


Knowing what returners are looking for will help business create a process that meets these needs and encourages maximum participation.


Making the returner process more effective


Using the returner needs that have been identified, it is possible to create a plan that makes the process positive for both the employer and employee.


A support system is vital for reintegration. Some companies have mentor or buddy scheme so that returners have a dedicated person to help them settle back in. Professional coaching can also be helpful.


To ensure that returners are up to speed with everything they need to know it is important to invest in training of some sort. This may be done internally, by bringing in experts or by enrolling new starters on an accredited external programme such as a college or CPD course.


Managing a returner’s performance is important too, to ensure they’re on track and feel comfortable in their new role and that they are meeting the needs of the business. It’s important to have regular check-ins and encourage a culture of communication that allows everyone to be open about where they are and what challenges they’re facing.


Formal Returnship programmes


For some companies the best way to tackle the issues surrounding employees returning to work after a career break is to create a formal returnship programme. This is similar to an internship and can be used with individuals or groups. They typically last between three and six months and will allow the returners to gain vital experience as well as giving the company a chance to trial them in advance of potentially making a job offer.


Alternatively a supported hiring programme allows returners to be hired directly into an employed position. The advantage of doing this is that the new employee can integrate into the team straight away and the business can continue with its hiring strategy as usual rather than waiting until the end of a returnship programme.


Returnship and supported hiring programmes are best tackled during quieter periods when those involved in managing the process can be focused on giving the returners the necessary support and training.


Next time you’re recruiting, take a closer look at applicants with a career break on their CV. They could prove to be the brilliant new addition your team needs.

For help, support and advice on recruiting returners and running a Returnship programme, contact us today shelley@flexology.co.uk or 0117 214 1224