It can be a daunting prospect returning to work after a long break for many reasons. Even if you possess a wealth of experience within your area of expertise, after a long break you may be asking yourself whether or not you can truly pick up where you left off. Are there now a different set of processes, or new software to learn in relation to your role? Will you require a flexible working pattern? Will you be able to fit in? Returnships – or returning professional internships – aim to address these issues and more.

The term has its origins in the US with Goldman Sachs widely acknowledged as piloting the scheme back in 2008. Years later it reached the UK, and now well-known companies, particularly in the finance sector, are replicating the scheme with their own versions.

To find out more about how returnships can be beneficial for both employer and employee, we interviewed Dame Denise Holt, Non-Executive Director at HSBC, Danuta Gray, Independent Non-Executive Board Director at PageGroup and Beverly Nicholas, Regional Talent Director at PageGroup, who gave us their views after speaking at Page Executive’s Midlands Women in Business event in Birmingham in March 2017. Watch what they had to say in the video above.

Returnships: Benefits to returnees

Although careful not to exclude anyone, returnships are not primarily aimed at Millennials. Middle-aged returnees, especially women who may have had a break to start a family or to care for a loved one and for whom technology, systems or processes, might have moved on since they were last in work, appear to be the main benefactors. They get a chance to start a new career or to pick up from where they left off, and have those all important questions answered so that they have a structured back-to-work plan of action to follow.

Those who are sceptical might ask: what do returnships really offer? Danuta addresses this question when she says:  “It’s about staying in touch, it’s about having regular communication. It’s about having buddying and mentoring schemes.”

Meanwhile, Beverley sees returnships as having potential benefits in “…giving someone the opportunity to redevelop or re-find their confidence that they may have lost having been out of work for a while.”

She adds: “People can develop self-limiting beliefs in terms of their capabilities so where I see returnships have a potential benefit is giving somebody the opportunity to redevelop, or rediscover their confidence.”

Having someone acting as a mentor or a buddy provides the returnee with two key help points – someone to talk to about the initial hurdles of returning to the workplace, and that person being a confidence builder for the returnee should they need it.

Returnships: Benefits to business

The benefits of returnships from a business perspective are numerous, especially when hiring at more senior levels. Although an individual may have been out of work for a number of years, the experience and skills they gained before their sabbatical can often be hugely valuable. For example, someone who worked as an accountant, sales professional or marketer five years ago is unlikely to have forgotten the key elements of operating successfully in these types of roles; they may just need to learn how to use a new software package or brush up on a new approach.  

“Companies should be very mindful of the skills the person has developed over their career and potentially, when they’ve been out of their career as well,” Dame Denise notes. As she points out, the skills needed for domestic life can be very similar to those in the workplace – multi-tasking, organising and time-management. Many parents, for example, get involved in their local schools and communities, serving on committees or organising events – experiences that can be transferred back to the workplace. 

Danuta also suggests that there is a benefit to business in terms of the time and money they’ve already invested in staff who return to the business after a break. “Businesses invest a lot in finding great people – particularly in training and developing them,” she explains. “If those really good people leave, for whatever reason, why would you not want to maximise the return on your initial investment by not encouraging them to come back when they feel ready to return?”

Ultimately, well-executed returnships can be a win-win for both businesses and their staff. It all comes back to what drives great recruitment in the first place: finding the best talent for the right roles. To discuss how Page Executive can do this for your business - and find out more about our operations in the Midlands – get in touch with Helen Schwarz. 

Helen Schwarz
T: 0121 634 6927
E: [email protected]