11 REASONS WHY YOUR RETURNER PROGRAMME DIDN’T GO TO PLAN (and things to consider next time!)

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2to3days is thrilled to be partnering with returnship specialists Inclusivity Partners who have grown a brilliant reputation for managing returnship programmes for a wide variety of clients. Juliet Turnbull was keen to catch up with founder Stephanie Dillon and find out what common mistakes companies are making that prevent their programmes from achieving their aims. Here are Stephanie’s top 11 mistakes to avoid so you can create a returners programme that's set up for success.

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 on Women Returners highlighted that a suspected 427,000 highly qualified women are currently on career breaks and ready to return. This statistic is backed up by our own research which showed that 65% of mothers on 2to3days are on a career break.   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 a week basis, as well as a 5-day a week basis attract considerably higher application rates and higher quality overall. In a recent survey of returning mothers, conducted by 2to3days and Inclusivity, 62.5% would only consider 4 days or less to return. This is a huge talent pool that gets missed if programmes are only considering 5 days a week.

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. Not mentioning anything to do with this, combined with only advertising for full-time returners, will sound alarm bells for many over the culture of your organisation. 28% of returners polled in our survey would happily return full-time but with genuine flexibility such as home working, flexible core hours etc. Less than 9% would return to a full-time role in an organisation offering no flexible or agile working.

3.    You relied on keyword searches to filter through the applications. Many returners are coming back to the market after a considerable career break. It's likely that keyword searches didn’t exist when they were last job hunting, so they won't be focussing on preparing a CV to match technology keyword searches. Using keyword searches means you could be missing out on swathes of talent.

4.    You put a limit to the number of years they have been on a career break. For example, '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 for 12 years - and more - who are flying. Don’t make assumptions just because someone has had a lengthy career break.

5.    The person filtering through applications didn’t receive training. Yes, believe it or not, there is a technique to reading a CV. Without the relevant knowledge of career trajectories, it’s very easy to make false assumptions about a candidate’s 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 returners programme is training line managers on how to measure a returners potential.

7.    There was no clear timescale. The returners market is becoming a lot more competitive 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 some cases months!) in between will only result in a dwindling talent pool as other companies pick up your coveted returners.

8.    There was no structure in place when your returners started working. Have your line managers been given an induction plan to follow? Are they 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 for one-to-one coaching that focusses on the individual as a person. Over half of the mothers we asked in our survey said they would expect one to one coaching to be part of the support package.

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.

If you want to find out more about running a great returners programme with 2to3days click here.