As companies grapple with how to increase their gender diversity, particularly with the recent findings from the gender pay gap reporting, it is still surprising how many businesses have not incorporated women returners into their talent acquisition strategies.

Mired by last minute recruitment briefings from line managers, applicant tracking systems designed to filter applicants out, and a myopic view of what constitutes ‘talent’, recruitment teams, both internal and external, are still placing the usual suspects into the usual roles. For this reason we see disappointing progress not only in the hiring of talented females, but in the progress towards BAME representation in our senior positions in organisations.

To date we pay homage to those organisations who have launched and successfully run Returner programmes. These returner programmes are a wonderful way to introduce returning talent into your organisation. We have been honoured to work with Virgin Money, Shell, Amazon, Nomura, CIBC plus others on the hiring and supporting of both men and women returners.

We also recognise that many financial services organisations and Big 4 firms are regularly running returner programmes. Although many programmes are having mixed feedback from participants and could benefit from more structure and cohesiveness of approach.

But here is where the next step needs to occur. We need to redefine how we approach our recruitment in general and broaden our definition of ‘the best person for the job’.

Right now we are clinging to a process that is founded on the belief that most recent experience is better than least recent experience. Is this theory tried and tested? Can we prove it? Or are we no further advanced than passing stories around the camp fire and clinging to them as truth? I would argue that it is the totality of a candidates experience that they bring to the job, and it is the totality of their personal qualities, characteristics and competencies they bring with them, that determines whether someone is a successful hire or not in the long run. I would challenge recruitment teams on the following areas:

1. Surely the best person for the job should be taken from the viewpoint of a year or at the very least six months? Who will have performed this job best when we sit down at the end of the year for the annual performance review? Right now, with our emphasis on industry knowledge and the criteria of pretty much having to do the entire role before you can apply for the role, the emphasis is only on your ability to be the best person for the job in the first month. All others, who may be so much stronger in leading and motivating teams, working with stakeholders, creative thinking and problem solving, driven to reach goals, etc are disregarded and thrown in the reject pile if they simply cannot match the ‘first month’ criteria.
2. I’m a firm believer that 3 or 4 days of Brilliance is better than 5 days of Mediocrity. Yet right now organisation’s sourcing strategies are still focussed on the full time labour market availability. If you are a candidate willing to do 5 days a week you can outshine even the most brilliant of candidates who is only available for 3 or 4 days a week because the latter don’t even make it to the interview stage.
3. Line Manager hiring needs explaining. We all know that the biggest barrier to increasing diverse hires rests with Line Managers who ultimately make all the hiring decisions. How many organisations are collecting information on hiring decisions per line manager and analysing themes? Right now some organisations are tasking their recruitment agencies on presenting diverse shortlists for opportunities. A good move however completely useless if line managers continue to hire the usual suspects off each shortlist, making the whole process tokenistic. We will be no further towards reaching our goals of diverse teams without this added step of reviewing selection and decision making processes of line managers.
4. Lastly, linear career paths are still read as a key indicator of whether someone is a good candidate. The vast majority of women do not have a linear career path over their career history. Until this truth is recognised and embraced, organisations will continue to miss out on exceptional female talent.

If your organisation would like to discuss returning talent and returner programmes, both women returners and men returners, then please get in touch at stephanie@inclusivity.co.uk Let’s begin a dialogue on how you can tap into outstanding talent just waiting to reignite.