Returnships, established in the US, are now gathering pace in the UK. Pioneered and subsequently trademarked by Goldman Sachs in 2008, returnships have proved to be an incredibly successful bridge allowing talented professionals to return to work after an extended career break.
Since their inception, many other large financial institutions in the US such as Morgan Stanley and Metlife have followed suit. Their adoption is now starting to spread throughout the UK and due to their success, the proliferation of returnships has now started to spread beyond financial institutions into the engineering and technology sectors.
STEM industries which have traditionally struggled to recruit women are now looking to returnships to help address this issue. Returnships are set to continue and should be on any employer's radar as an area for development as part of a well-rounded recruitment strategy.
How do returnships work?
Returnships or returning professional internships as they are otherwise known are usually paid, short term employment contracts. They typically last between 10 – 12 weeks and involve participants working on commercial projects that are linked to their experience, skills and interests. This allows the employer to place a sole individual on a project, gaining focused attention on what could be a business critical issue. At the end of the returnship programme the employer can make an informed decision on whether the individual is a proven fit for the organisation. The employer then has the opportunity to offer the participant a permanent role based on their performance.
What are the benefits to an employer?
Incorporating returnships into an organisation's recruitment strategy allows employers to access an untapped talent pool of highly skilled professionals, eager to achieve and ready help your business strive forward.
Senior hires often come with high risk given the money and inherent level of trust involved. Offering a returnship allows an employer to 'try before buying,' removing the risk and ensuring the best possible chance to avoid any mismatch in personality or requirements for the role or organisation.
In addition, offering a returnship can be an excellent way to compliment an organisation's diversity programme. The benefits of diversity within an organisation are far from arbitrary. Research has shown with little room for doubt that an organisation's diversity can be essential to growth of a company, especially in today's fast changing business environment. A study by Lu Hong and Scott E.Page showed that groups of diverse problem solvers typically outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers that lack such diversity.
Organisations across the board have long since struggled with female attrition as mid-career professionals inevitably take a career break due to family commitments. Loannidis and Walther found in their research that this leaves a talent gap within middle and senior management. What they found is that whilst many will return to work, barriers such as time out of work means that there is no clear route back into mid-senior level roles. This is compounding the effects of female talent exiting the job market leaving employers with a gaping hole in their employee mix.
A survey from the London Business School revealed that 70% of women feel anxious about taking a career break. Organisations that show that they have put supportive programmes in place to help women to take a career break and return to work will undoubtedly reap the rewards. Returnships offer a crucial on-ramp for highly skilled professional women to return to work, meaning that an employer can quite quickly start to address the lack of women amongst their mid-senior level roles.
What are the benefits to a participant?
Returnships benefit participants just as much as the organisations that offer them. After an extended career break it's common to lose one's professional confidence and taking part in a returnship can help to rebuild both confidence and skills in a supportive peer environment.
Since going on a career break the workplace may have changed significantly. Language, technology, and business focus can change quickly and a returnship offers the chance to access in-house training and mentoring, helping you to update your skills and experience. Whether it leads to a permanent position with the returnship provider or it helps to sharpen your skills and experience to help you make the next step, it's a win-win situation.
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