Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
I read a Harvard Business Review article recently titled “Return to Work Programs Come of Age”. The article was about hiring employees who have been out of the workforce for a while. And by a while, I mean years. The reasons could vary from parenting to caregiving to retirement. It’s a good read and definitely an idea worth consideration.
One of the things that I found interesting in the article was the conversation about bias. It’s something that recruiters and hiring managers need to ask themselves. Do I have a bias when it comes to gaps in a candidate’s employment history? Or do I have a bias when it refers to the reason why a person might have a gap in their employment history? For example, is it okay when a person takes time off for parenting but maybe not so much for retirement?
If organizations want to find and hire the best employees, they’re going to have to start looking at these types of biases. Individuals who have taken time off – for whatever the reason – have skills. In fact, the time they’ve spent away from the office environment could have been an asset to their career development. Think about that!
But this doesn’t mean that hiring an individual who has a gap in their employment history doesn’t need some extra onboarding time. That’s where the HBR article comes into the conversation. They mentioned an activity called a returnship that might make sense.
Think of a returnship like an internship for returning employees. It could be for a short-term project or assignment. The purpose of the returnship is to help new employees who have been away from the workforce for a while get reacclimated to the work culture and contribute to the project. The company could bring in a handful of returning employees at the same time. The group receives specialized onboarding and training. It could also be helpful to include a buddy or mentor.
A returnship could give the organization a chance to work with talented professionals who bring some unique skills and perspectives to the work. It could also help individuals who are considering a full-time move back to the workplace. At the end of the returnship – just like an internship – there can be a discussion about continuing with the company.
If your organization wants to consider creating a returnship program, think about getting a project sponsor. This should be someone in the senior leadership team who will champion the project and help to secure the necessary resources to make it successful. Also, designate a returnship program manager who can answer questions and make sure the program is implemented properly.
The program manager can also be the point person to communicate what the program is and how it will benefit the organization. It could make sense to allow employee referrals into the returnship program. And the manager can track the program’s success. The organization might want to consider getting testimonials from returnship participants to share internally and externally. (Side note: Please check with your legal department about getting authorization to use testimonials in recruitment marketing.)
The challenges we’re seeing with recruiting aren’t going to go away anytime soon. Regardless of “The Great Resignation”, statistically we’re hearing that the number of people entering the workforce is smaller than the number of people leaving it. That’s because of birth rates. So, creating programs that will allow the organization to hire and cultivate talent are essential to long-term recruiting success.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Kansas City, MO22