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11 reasons why your returner programme didn’t go to plan

(and things to consider next time!)

Returner programmes are becoming increasingly popular. Rightly so when one considers the enormous amount of talent estimated to be ready to reignite their career yet lacking in ways to access employment. PWC’s 2016 report titled the £1billion potential of Women Returners highlighted that a suspected 427,000 highly qualified women are currently on career breaks and ready to return. More and more companies are putting in place Returner programmes which is heartening to see but feedback from participants is that not all are set up for success.

Is your organisation guilty of the following?

  1. Advertising only for people to return on a full time basis. Whilst some returners will happily return full time, many need access to less than full time hours. Programmes that consider people on a 4 day week basis as well as a 5 day a week basis attract considerably higher application rates and higher quality overall.
  2. You didn’t mention flexible or agile working in your advert. Organisations that have a culture of trust and a focus on productivity are coveted by Returners. If you haven’t mentioned anything to do with this combined with only advertising for full time returners, then for many the alarm bells will be sounding over the culture of your organisation.
  3. You relied on key word searches to filter through the applications. Many Returners are returning to the market after a considerable career break. It’s most likely key word searches didn’t exist when they were last job searching so they wouldn’t be focussing on preparing a cv to match technology key word searches, meaning you could be missing out on swathes of talent by only preferencing those with the most key words.
  4. You put a limit to the amount of years they have been on a career break. e.g. your career break must have been between 2-8 years. Why? What happened at 8 years? Did they have a lobotomy?? We have placed many Returners who have been out 12 or 13 years who are flying. Don’t make assumptions just because someone has a large break.
  5. The person filtering through applications didn’t receive training. Yes, believe it or not there is a technique to reading a CV and without the relevant knowledge of career trajectories it’s very easy to make false assumptions about a candidates potential.
  6. Your Line Managers weren’t  trained and didn’t buy in to the programme. So many assumptions are made when it comes to recruiting –  key to running a returner programmes is training line managers on how to measure a Returners potential.
  7. There was no plan. The Returners market is picking up with competitiveness and you can’t be complacent that great Returners will be on the market for months. Once candidates have been shortlisted, line manager interviews need to be booked in asap. Waiting weeks in between will only result in a dwindling talent pool as other companies pick up your coveted returner.
  8. There was no structure in place when your Returners commenced working. Have your Line Managers been given an induction plan to follow? Are the accountable? Do your Returners have clearly defined parameters on how success will be measured? And who will be responsible for ensuring that Line Managers commit to the process?
  9. You didn’t provide one to one coaching. The best programmes incorporate one to one bespoke coaching, focussed on each individual’s needs. Group coaching can be terrific and has its place, but it is no substitute or one-to-one coaching that focusses on the individual as a person.
  10. The process for staying on at the end of the programme was ambiguous. Caught up in the excitement of meeting so many amazing candidates at the start, the end of the programme can often be forgotten about. What process will the Returners go through at the end if Line Managers would like to make them a permanent offer? What process will occur if the Returner is a must hire elsewhere in the group? Who owns this process?
  11. Last, but not least, you only focussed on Women. Yes, we know that statistically speaking more women take breaks than men and more women take on caring responsibilities than men. However, there are pioneering men out there taking lead roles in caring for elderly parents, or caring for children, and if we’re seeking to build a world of equality then these pioneers should be included in Returner programmes.