Employers should consider including supporting returners in management goals and financially rewarding these as well as sharing best practice on returners with their supply chains and clients, according to a workingmums.co.uk roundtable on returners.
The roundtable discussion, hosted by FDM Group, forms the basis of the workingmums.co.uk White Paper on Returners.
Diversity and HR leads from 20 employers from a diverse range of sectors took part in the roundtable and spoke about issues relating to hiring people who have taken a significant career break.
They emphasised the quality of the returner candidates they were seeing and the need to reach out to them and recognise their different career paths and the range of skills they had to offer. That meant not just getting buy-in from senior managers, but also training hiring managers to understand any support returners might need.
Despite the often small numbers on returner programmes or in supported returner posts, employers said they believe returner initiatives could change the conversation about career breaks if employers spoke out loudly about the quality of talent and skills those who have had a career break offer.
They added that, given career breaks for all sorts of reasons were likely to become more common and employers were facing severe skills shortages in many areas, it was important for recruiters to be open to a wider talent pool than they have been traditionally.
The white paper highlights how employers could make a strong business case for returner initiatives based on returners’ ability to bring in diversity of thought through their different experiences, their loyalty and how programmes provide a way both for employers to get more women into middle and senior management roles and address skills shortages.
Roundtable participants also spoke in detail about how to attract and retain returners. They suggested employers should use alumni from returner cohort groups as role models and ambassadors as well as diversity advocates.
Employers were encouraged to reach out via social media and insight events to encourage returners to apply for initiatives, given returners often have low levels of confidence after years out of the workplace. Other suggestions for employers were:
- To try different types of interview techniques to drill down to the range of experience returners have
- To offer mentors and an onboarding process
- To emphasise returners’ wide range of experience and encourage them to use examples from outside the workplace if these are more recent and immediate
- To provide coaching, mentors, buddies and sponsors as well as an alumni cohort group
- For smaller employers, to consider supported returner posts or base support on what they offer to those returning from lengthy periods of parental leave.
*The white paper is available here.