The rise of the 'midlife returnships': How can they benefit your business?

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

October 02 2017

Predominantly an American initiative, returnships have been increasingly used over the last few years in the UK and, in the 2017 Budget, the government announced a £5 million investment in these schemes. As more companies offer returnships, what are the benefits of them for your business and those embarking on them? For those unfamiliar with the concept, we’ll start by explaining exactly what it is: a returnship is a short-term work placement offering training and experience for those who have had a career break. Although available to all workers, they generally focus on older workers and females who have had a break for caring or family responsibilities. They typically last for three to six months. What are the benefits? There are benefits for both the individual returning to work and the business itself, such as:
  • Filling a skills gap – the returner may prove during their placement that they have the necessary skills the business needs in a permanent role. Returners will also have skills that they’ve developed during their career break that may be needed by the company e.g. childcare responsibilities may develop skills such as multitasking and managing time.
  • Using experience – the returner may have previously worked in a higher role or a different industry entirely. By returning, they’re bringing this experience to the returner role and ensuring this can be used by the business to improve or grow.
  • Retaining talent – returning staff will often struggle to find employment because of the gap in their CV. However, investing time and money in a member of staff - as well as offering trust and encouragement - is likely to lead to better retention of the employee and their knowledge, experience, talent etc.
  • Short term placement provides a trial period – in a similar fashion to a probationary period, returnships allow a short period of time for both the business and the individual to evaluate whether the returner is right for the role or for continued employment. However, this decision should only be made once the returner receives the support and training required to perform at the necessary standard.
How to ensure returnships are a success
  • Provide a mentor or buddy system – in the same way as with a new starter, having a designated person for the returner to ask questions or raise concerns to will provide them with support during the challenging returning period. It will also increase communication and networking within the department or team.
  • Provide training – not only on aspects of the job role but also on skills the individual may have lost or missed out on because of their career break e.g. how to use a new piece of technology or software that has been introduced
  • Consider soft skills too – providing a workshop on confidence or networking skills is likely to help the returner perform the role better
  • Have a back to work plan – providing a structured returnship will ensure both parties get the most out of the opportunity as possible, as well as making sure the returner knows what support is available, when training will take place and what standard is required at what stage.
As you can see, returnships can offer lots of value to your organisation, so maybe it’s time to consider trying them out.

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