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Recruitment: What are Returnship Programs?

By December 9, 2019No Comments

In an era where the labor market is tight, I’ve watched organizations become incredibly creative in how they are attracting and retaining their employees.

Whether it’s attending college fairs and recruiting on campus, or being intentionally active on LinkedIn, building out internship programs and investing heavily in culture and employee engagement – organizations are challenged to WIN and KEEP talent.

Among the many trends around talent attraction and retention, I have to admit – I was intrigued by this emerging concept: Returnships.

Essentially, returnships operate as paid internships for adults that are re-entering the workforce.

In other words, it’s people that put their career on hold for a period of time and believe they’re ready to jump back in.

…but they’re not jumping in with two-feet. 

They’re typically not “all in” right off the bat.

It’s a big adjustment.

Which is why I was fascinated by the concept of returnships.

What is a Returnship?

Returnships can vary by company, but the general goal remains the same.

A returnship is typically a paid period of time for adults to acclimate to the workforce through developing relevant skills, building professional experience and expanding networks.

They may last between a few weeks to a few months, depending on the company and the industry.

But as I mentioned above, it’s a fairly new concept.

According to Deloitte, about 160 companies worldwide offer some sort of returnship initiative.

In addition, according to iRelaunch (a firm that specializes in returnship program implementation) 38 programs were launched in the US between 2016 and 2018.

As experts predict that the tight labor market in the United States will continue, companies like yours may view returnships as an attractive way to recruit new and unique talent.

What’s the Benefits of a Returnship for an Employer?

There’s a few different ways employers can benefit from a returnship.

First, returnships entice workers who may already have niche industry experience to come back to the workplace.

Often, finding entry-level or new employees with this depth of industry knowledge can be challenging.

Finding people who have already developed such knowledge can greatly benefit various industries.

Second, returnships are a way to onboard employees at an organization with minimal risk for both, the employer and the returnship employee.

Because returnships typically involve acclimating an employee at a slower pace than a traditional new hire, employees generally demonstrate a better understanding of the company’s expectations and culture.

Also, if through the process returnship employees find that returning to work isn’t right for them at the moment, or if a company finds that hiring a returnship employee isn’t the best option, they don’t have to accept or be offered a full-time position.

This can potentially save companies the cost of trying to fill a full-time position, which can be as high as six to nine months of a full-time position’s salary.

Benefits of Returnships for Employees

While returnships provide employers benefits, there are also many employee advantages with returnships.

These initiatives are designed to help employees slowly acclimate to the workforce, regardless of their reasons for stepping away from it for some time.

Returnships typically focus on teaching participants new skills through training and mentorship programs, deepening an employee’s network and career pathing.

Additionally, returnships give employees the chance to get back in the workplace without the pressures of jumping in feet-first.

Returnships typically progress at a slower scale, teaching employees the skills they will need to be successful over the course of the initiative’s duration.

In some returnships, companies will hire program participants, giving them the opportunity for full-time employment should they decide they want to continue in the workforce.

The Cons of Returnships

Although there are benefits for both the employer and the employee when it comes to returnships, there are also downsides.

One of the biggest drawbacks for returnships is that, because they’re so new, employers may find it difficult to determine how to implement a program at their organization.

It’s particularly true for industries outside of tech and finance, where returnships are quite popular, making it difficult to determine a returnship’s structure and compensation.

For employees, returnship compensation does vary greatly, as does program structure.

This means that it may be difficult for an employee to find a returnship that fits their specific needs.

Moreover, while the majority of returnships offer full-time positions at the end of the initiative, full-time employment isn’t guaranteed and it’s not available at every organization.

In Closing

Implementing a returnship program can help your organization attract experienced workers who have stepped away from the workforce.

The goal of these programs is to help returning workers develop necessary skills, acclimate to the workforce and gain experience in order to succeed in the modern workplace.

Returnships may not be a viable option for every employer, however.