Triumphant returns – The emergence of the ‘returnship’
Sam Wilson, July 9, 2014
When you think of interns what springs to your mind? No doubt a fresh faced, whipper snapper straight out of school or uni brimming with enthusiasm but fairly new to the world of work. A new concept has made its way over the pond that might change this impression, the ‘returnship’.
What is a ‘returnship’?
‘Returnships’ offer the opportunity for experienced professionals to re-enter the workplace following an extended period away. Potential employers recognise that these periods away from work can leave these individuals feeling out of touch with recent developments. The world of technology and social media, and their place in the workplace, are developing so quickly that even a short break from work can very easily lead to people falling behind.
‘Returnships’ recognise that the existing skills and experience of the ‘returner’ makes them a valuable asset to the company if they just dedicate some time training them and getting them up to speed.
The schemes normally last between 10-12 weeks and allow the returners to work on projects that boost their CVs, develop their skills and utilise their existing experience.
The scheme was launched by Goldman Sachs in 2008, who have since trademarked the term ‘returnship’, and has recently been embraced by Credit Suisse in London. The scheme was primarily aimed at women, offering the opportunity to return to work following time off to raise children however recent programmes have taken on male candidates who have taken extended breaks from work.
Women & ‘returnships’
Many organisations will have an equal intake of men and women at entry level positions however there is a dramatic reduction of women in higher-level positions. The main reason for this is women, having reached middle or senior management positions, taking time out of work for primarily (although not exclusively) childcare reasons. Despite fully intending on continuing their career once the demands of care have reduced, this can become an incredibly daunting prospect as the break can lead to lower professional confidence or no clear route back into a company.
Recent studies back this up as 70% of women fears taking a career break especially for maternity leave and subsequently to raise children. Many women feel that this is considered to be an inconvenience to their employers and fear returning to a hostile environment.
A common consequence of this is that these people end up entering smaller companies, pursue their own business ventures or voluntary activities as these are environments that are easier to enter with their existing skills and experience. This leads to a shortage of women in senior level positions within larger corporate companies. A recent review found that only 7.3% of directors in FTSE 250 companies were women and nearly half of these companies had no women in their boardrooms at all.
Return to work schemes address this problem, allowing women who have taken time out of work to reintegrate into the modern workplace whilst giving organisations chance to assess their skills and decide whether to offer a longer-term contract.
‘Returnships’ & the future
The mutually beneficial nature of ‘returnships’ are leading to growing popularity, over the coming years we expect to see them become increasingly common as organisations take advantage of this untapped resource of high calibre and experienced candidates, that with focused training can refresh and update existing skills and progress to become valuable assets.
Increasingly these schemes are recognising that men also take similar breaks whether it be for caring for an elderly relative, childcare or other reasons there is a now a growing presence of men on these schemes.
Providing a clear and obtainable route back into work for those that have taken time out allows the returners themselves to rediscover their place in the corporate world to which they committed so much time and gives the organisations access to highly capable, qualified and experienced employees. Win, win!