What Are Returnships?

Nancy Anderson
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More and more companies are turning to returnship programming as a way to help skilled workers return to the office environment after an extended leave of absence. Returnships have several advantages for both the company and workers, and they represent a job benefit that business professionals should look into when trying to maintain a career over the long term.

Why Have Returnship Programming?

Returnship programming works well for employees who take a long time away from work for a variety of reasons. Workers can take time off to go back to school and update their skill set. They can take months or years off to care for children or elderly relatives while having a guaranteed job once they return to the workforce. Returnships offer ways for employees to come back to work with just a little more training, while employers have the security of relying on workers who are already familiar with the company. These types of plans come in handy for people who formally quit their jobs but want to come back after leaving on good terms.

Case Studies for Success

Several top companies have returnship programming, and it goes by different names. IBM has its Tech Re-entry program, GM's is called Take2, and Johnson & Johnson's program goes by the name Re-ignite. These programs have one thing in common: they give employers a low-risk way to retrain or rehire employees. These firms already know the basic skill set of the employees who stepped away, and it doesn't take long to re-evaluate someone's skill set.

Deloitte's Encore program offers a perfect case study to measure success. Returnship programming works just like an internship-style program. Candidates go through an eight- or 16-week cycle, starting in September, while providing employers with meaningful work. The two- or four-month program gives managers time to evaluate where the person fits into Deloitte's culture and workforce. The program started in 2015, and it's an unqualified success.

Major Benefits

Returnships have several benefits for both workers and employers. Employers have an instant talent pool they can tap into rather than opening up positions to entirely new people. This increases the odds of making a good hire while decreasing the staff time it takes to hire someone brand new. Path Forward, a company that specializes in developing returnships for companies, said it sees an 85 percent full-time employment rate after employees complete a six-month program. Even workers who choose not to come back believe a returnship has long-term benefits, such as gaining new skills or new networking contacts, beyond just landing a full-time job.

Returnships also create diversity and inclusion among a company's culture. When workers perceive that a company is flexible, they want to work for that company versus companies that don't offer similar programs. This job benefit creates loyalty and enhances overall company culture with employees who love working for a particular firm.

Returnship programming is a viable way for companies to maintain an active talent pipeline, and it gives workers confidence that they can return to a job with a little training following an extended leave of absence. This benefit is a win-win trend that will likely expand in the future. Have you participated in a returnship? Share your experiences in the comments.

Photo courtesy of kymlam at Flickr.com


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