Recognizing the fact that employees need to take a pause in their career due to multiple family or personal reasons and becoming cognizant of the fact that it is a difficult journey to transition back to work after an extended leave, employers are gradually becoming more receptive to welcoming this talent pool back in the workforce.
With individuals across the globe having to quit their jobs to take care of their family, mothers wanting to return to their career after a long break, people wanting to look out for opportunities after a career break due to medical reasons, military personnel seeking opportunities on completing their service tenure, this segment of the population is often exposed to a preconceived notion of their inability to cope up with the new demands of a rapidly evolving workforce of today. While organizations today are looking to invest in upskilling existing workforce, there is also a need to drive initiatives enabling this talent pool to restart their career.
Several Americans leave their jobs voluntarily every year. Statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta highlights that reasons for such exits range from caregiving responsibilities at home to pursuing higher education. As per a 2019 Harvard Business School Survey, approximately one third of the respondents had voluntarily quit their jobs with caregiving being the sole reason.
Walmart's Returnship Program
To enable individuals who had quit their previous jobs due to caregiving responsibilities for a family member, Walmart’s tech-focused subsidiary, Walmart Labs and Path Forward initiated a Returnship Program in 2018 giving these job seekers an opportunity to join the workforce again. In 2018, Walmart hired 30 women under the same program, working across roles including user experience, data science, paid engineering and product management for four months. Encouraging individuals at the Returnship event hosted by Walmart and Path Forward in June 2019 to look ahead for the next opportunity, Tami Forman, Executive Director at Path Forward said, “Take the leap. The world needs you.”
With close to 100 such open positions, Walmart is set to hire individuals on returnships across multiple locations including Reston, Sunnyvale, San Bruno, Carlsbad and Hoboken as well as at the HQ at Bentonville, Arkansas. The eligibility criteria to apply for a returnship is:
● Minimum five years of work experience
● Minimum two years of career break on the grounds of caregiving
With experience not being the only prerequisite for these roles, Senior HR Manager at Walmart Labs, Radina Mileva said, “We are looking for potential. We just want them to have that passion.”
While the industry remains skeptical about hiring individuals who return after a break, Forman believes these individuals are highly motivated to join the workforce again. She said, "My experience is that someone who took time out of their career to spend time with their family is very motivated to get back into the workforce. They want to prove themselves, they want to be engaged intellectually again, they want to have financial security. They are as motivated as anyone else who walks through your door."
BP Returnship Program
Progress has been made and there are several other organizations today that run similar initiatives to bring back people to work. One such initiative is by BP, a British multinational oil and gas company headquartered in London. After a successful pilot in 2017, BP Returnship Program returns in 2019. BP along with The Mom Project offers support to both men and women who were on an extended family or personal leave, to rejoin the workforce. BP Returnship Program, now a nine month program, offers mentoring and networking opportunities to these individuals with a potential full time opportunity at BP.
"The success of programs such as the BP Returnship Program lets us know that today's working professional is in need of effective tools to support the transition back into the workplace,” said Allison Robinson, Founder and CEO, The Mom Project.
Workforce of Tomorrow
There are several other organizations that have taken significant steps by implementing returnship programs to help caregivers, military personnel and returning mothers to re-enter the workspace. Some of these include:
- PwC: PwC‘s “Back to Business” program has been designed to encourage experienced senior professionals to restart their career after a break. This is a six-week paid program with the potential of a permanent role with PwC upon completion, depending on their performance.
- Goldman Sachs: The Goldman Sachs Returnship program extends help to talented individuals looking to restart their career after an extended absence of two years or more from the workforce. It is an eight-week paid program with opportunities across divisions and a chance to sharpen their skills to take the next step in their career. The program is prevalent across their New York, Jersey City, Salt Lake City, Dallas and Bengaluru offices.
- Credit Suisse: Credit Suisse runs “The Real Returns program” to re-engage individuals who have been out of work for an extended time period and help them transition back into the workspace through a variety of orientation events and training sessions. It is a twelve-week paid program giving you an opportunity to work on projects matching your skillset. Since its launch in 2014, close to 60 percent of individuals who participated in this program have moved into a permanent role. This program is run across their U.S, U.K, India and Switzerland offices.
“Nearly a quarter of educated mothers age 25 to 54 are not in the labor force and research has found that most (93 percent) highly qualified women who are “off-ramped” from their careers want to return to them,” said Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder iRelaunch. She further added that it’s not just mothers but also veterans and retirees who look forward to “unretire”.
With such a vast portion of global population looking to “unretire”, it’s time this untapped talent pool joins the yet to be upskilled workforce. Together they form the power-packed “Workforce of Tomorrow”.