Returning to Work – “Returnships”

There’s nothing like a new label to get everyone fired up about something. This month, the HR press is abuzz with talk of “Returnships”, or “Returning Professional Internships”, designed to act as a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals.

This is a professionals opportunity to begin returning to work. The idea is that “The Returner” takes on commercially significant assignments based on their skills, interests and prior experience. The employing organisation gains from focused attention on business-critical issues and a low-risk opportunity to assess a potential employee’s suitability for a permanent role at the end of the period (usually 12 weeks).

“The Returnee” benefits from coaching/training and mentoring provided through the program. The placement also offers the returnee the opportunity to update skills, knowledge and experience in their previous sector/role, or to potentially transition into a new area.

Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Tideway and Lloyds Bank have all revealed success in employees returning to work over the last few years, and have made Returnships part of their on-going recruitment.

The ability to find, proposition and harness talent is an increasingly critical skill. At Cohesion, we believe that great recruiters should always be offering creative ways for the business to find and bring in new talent – regardless of their demographic. 

Here are our top 5 tips for accessing pools of senior and experienced candidates:

1. Educate your Internal Stakeholders

Advise them regarding the recruitment landscape for particular skill sets. Help them to understand that being flexible and considering candidates that may have taken extended career breaks will, ultimately, enhance the organisations skills portfolio.

2. Identify your audience

All great recruitment should start with defining what you need, then working out where to find it. Do you want to attract mums that have had long career breaks? Try thinking about where they hang out online and offline. Sites such as are dedicated to helping organisations reach out to this demographic.

3. Develop alternative communities

Those returning to work aren’t the only group to consider developing a dialogue with. Other relevant profiles could include ex-employees in general; ex-Graduate cohorts and highly-skilled retirees (we’re a fan of;  all of whom could enhance available skills for your organisation.

Having clear practices to keep in touch with these communities will help you to be able to reach out to them in future.

4. Make it known you’re in the market for Returners

Include positive statements about Returnees in your advertisements and on your careers page. Make it clear that you want to hear from the communities you have identified. Then, make sure provide details for how interested candidates can get in touch.

Make it clear that, when employees leave, the door is always open and you’d like to maintain an appropriate dialogue.

5. Make it easy

Don’t put up barriers in the recruitment process, or screen candidates out because some re-training  or updating of skills may be required. If you are willing to support re-registration of professional qualifications then this could open a viable route to talent – such as support return to practice for nurses (#comebacktonursing if you’re familiar with the NHS), or supporting previous professional drivers to get back behind the wheel.

Additionally, make sure you’re asking relevant questions and make the journey through your ATS as short and simple as possible.

Returning to Work



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