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Returnships – A Rewarding Return to Work?

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The Rise of the Returnship Programme

What is a Returnship?

Having taken a career-break, a returnship is a high-level internship aimed at professionals who want to return to work.
An initiative that landed on our shores in 2014 from the US, where the concept was pioneered by Goldman Sachs in 2008 before going mainstream, returnships offer a bridge back to the workplace after a period of absence, whether that be for maternity or paternity leave, health reasons or simply a sabbatical.
The aim of the scheme is to conquer any fears about returning to the corporate world, as well as those surrounding taking a break from it in the first place – but it cannot be argued that returnships benefit employers as well as their employees.

The programme generally takes place over a period of about ten weeks, and more importantly, it appears to work: of the first 123 participants on Goldman Sachs returnships, around 50% went on to take full-time positions at the bank.

The Benefits of a Returnship

For employers: Reinstating people to senior-level roles meets the pressing business need to re-fill the talent pipeline, while the fixed-term trial period overcomes the perceived risk of hiring someone with a worryingly long gap on their CV. Companies can effectively dip their toe in the water before signing on the dotted line, and only sign the best candidates at the end of the course.

For employees: Confidence is king in the workplace, no matter your role or seniority, and the vast majority of employees that have undertaken returnships before returning to work have reportedly found them an invaluable way to refamiliarise themselves with the state of the workplace – and in many cases update their existing skills.

But What of the Pitfalls?

For yes there are some… There has been evidence of smaller companies offering returnships with minimal pay, which both denies equality of access but also, it could be argued, exploits the participants.
Furthermore, there is no guaranteed position at the end, and the more people take any one course, the less likely there is to be gainful employment at the end.

But if these pitfalls are avoided, returnships can provide a practical and positive way to allow people to return to a corporate career.

Will Returnships become more Mainstream?

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that returning to work after a career break is made considerably easier by a returnship. Originally aimed at mums returning to work, they now span periods of absence for a variety of reasons, and since their introduction to the UK have made getting back to work after illness, in particular, a more feasible and less daunting prospect – which can only be a good thing for businesses and their respective workforces alike.

It has been reported that the blossoming trend for organisations offering returnships will grow even further in 2018 – which is good news when over three quarters (79%) of workers in the UK say they would be more inclined to join a company that offered a returnship programme.

So if attracting and retaining a talented workforce is the name of the game – which it should be – returnships are surely a key consideration. And likewise if the thought of a career break seems all but unfeasible, returnships do perhaps offer a viable route back into meaningful employment.

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