The small business guide to returnship schemes
If I asked: ‘Does your company run a returnship programme?’ and you replied: ‘A what?‘ I wouldn’t be surprised.
Nine in ten people have never heard of a returnship programme. But they can be a powerful way to access senior talent on a short-term basis.
So when small businesses are often taking on interns to help them grow on the cheap, why don’t they do the same with returnships?
What is a returnship?
A returnship is the senior version of an internship. They’re designed for workers returning to the office after a long period away, so that they can do some on-the-job training and get used to their new routine.
Returnships are usually reserved for parents that have taken an extended career break to raise children, but can be used by career changers and anyone that’s taken a long period of time on leave.
The pros of offering a returnship programme
Companies like Goldman Sachs have been running these programmes for years – there must be a reason why!
One of the clear pros of offering a returnship programme is getting to work with senior talent.
The people applying for your returnship opportunities will likely be experienced candidates. This means that they will have transferable skills from other industries and roles.
Successful applicants will hopefully be eager to learn and use their skills to get off to a flying start.
Returnships are also a great opportunity for small tech companies to target diverse applicants. This is because the people returning from long-term leave are often mothers.
And just like with internships, they’re great a great tool to use to test out candidates for permanent positions. Returnships often last anywhere from a few weeks to six months, and they’re the perfect low-risk chance to try out a candidate in a role. If you like them you can always offer them a full-time role at the end of it!
For experienced professionals that have taken long-term leave – whether this was maternity or even furlough – returning to full-time work again must be stressful.
You’d be full of excitement but also anxiety and trepidation.
Returnships offer workers the chance to train up, network and get used to full-time employment again. They’re a great opportunity to sharpen soft skills while building up the new technology skills they need for their job search.
As returnships are on a fixed-term contract, they’re less commitment to handle all at once too.
The cons of offering a returnship programme
There are a few cons to consider before you race to set up your programme.
The first is that you’ll be tapping into a very limited pool of candidates. There aren’t millions of candidates searching for returnships or even coming back from long-term leave, so you could be sourcing applications for a long time before finding your star candidate.
Because returnships are reserved for those that have been out of work for some time, you might end up working with someone with completely outdated technical skills.
It’s also worth considering that there is a very real chance that your returner could leave your programme part-way through. Just like with internships, when there isn’t a guaranteed job waiting at the end, your employees will be hunting for a more permanent role for weeks before their official end date.
This means that if you wait until the last second to offer your returner a full-time role, you might be too late.
And you will invest so much time into creating and hiring for your returnship scheme that taking on the wrong person really isn’t an option.
If you end up hiring a career changer that decides this field or role type isn’t for them, you’ll be left down a team member.
Deciding to do a returnship can be a life-changing thing. If you don’t invest enough time into developing an airtight, supportive training and mentorship-focused programme, your candidates might regret it.
People returning from a long stint out of work will take a returnship for the support, training and structure it provides. If your organisation can’t offer this, you might be better off running an internship programme instead.
Returnship programmes for small businesses
So will you be running a returnship programme?
They can be a great way to tap into skilled talent on a fixed-term basis. They can help your business excel in times of high demand, without the long-term risk of adding a big salary to your payroll in your early stages.
Helping people with their skills and confidence after a long period out of the workplace could also be a very rewarding experience for you and your business partners!
It’s important to remember that training and mentorship are essential elements of a returnship. Build a great programme and great applicants will hopefully come.
If their career path and your returnship align, you could end up hiring a trusted team member at the end of it.