There are almost two million women in the UK who are economically inactive for caring reasons, the Government says. Many of these are seasoned professionals and managers. Around three quarters of these women would like to return to work at some point but face personal and structural barriers to re-joining the workplace.
Returner programmes are one way to tackle these issues. These are targeted at people returning to work after a long break (typically two years or more). Most companies prefer to structure the placement period as a ‘temporary’ position, rolling over to a permanent role if successful. This article is a summary of the current Government advice on making these programmes effective.
Returnship programmes for management roles
To date, programmes have largely targeted professional and mid-to-senior managerial level roles. This can help address the brain drain of female talent at middle and senior management familiar to many organisations. Hiring experienced returners is an innovative way to expand your female talent pipeline, the Government’s advice suggests.
There are several key elements to consider in building a returner programme:
- When would be the best time to start a returner programme? Avoid those that are very busy for your operations so managers have time to offer good support to returners. You could also avoid times of the year (such as school holidays) at which returners might find it difficult to find early days cover for their caring responsibilities.
- How long will your returner programme be? Returnships are often three to six months long. Any shorter than this, and the returner won’t have enough time to get up to speed with your organisation and show what they can do on the job. Any longer than this prolongs the uncertainty for the returner and increases the pressure they are under to prove themselves.
- Who will be on the programme? Returner programmes can be run for one person or for a group of people. A group programme has the built-in benefit of a ready-made peer support network, which is greatly valued by returners.
- What work, or roles, will returners take? Focus on suitable-level work which gives them the opportunity to make the most of their professional skills and experience. Allocate them to a line manager who is engaged with the programme, excited about bringing returner talent into their team, and prepared to accommodate flexible requests.
- What level will your returners work at? In principle, returners should come back to work at the same level as they were when they left. Any out-of-date skills or knowledge can usually be overcome by training, a supportive and helpful team and a transition period in which they can get back up to speed.
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