HR Leads Business

Aug 8, 2019 | Clare Chiappetta

Is a ‘Returnship’ Program Right for Your Organization?

Long-term unemployment continues to be a significant problem in the U.S. Although the number of people receiving government aid from unemployment has dwindled, this doesn’t account for the 1.4 million people whose government assistance has expired. Individuals who have been out of work for long periods of time tend to face a substantial hiring bias, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good workers.

“Returnship” programs offer a solution. Pioneered by Goldman Sachs in 2008, these programs function along the lines of an internship. They give candidates job experience, while letting employers test and train them without risk.

How do you know if a returnship program is right for your organization?

“If you want to tap into a previously underutilized market of individuals who are getting back into the workforce for various reasons, maybe doing a career transition or moving from one industry to another, then you should consider a returnship program,” says Suzanne Rohan Jones, a career counselor and associate instructor with Maryville University’s online psychology program.

Here are three things to think about when considering a returnship program at your organization.

Put Diversity and Soft Skills at the Forefront

If you’re looking to diversify your workforce, then a returnship program may be right for your organization. Women who have taken time off from work for child-care reasons are a big part of the population looking to return to the workforce. Other populations include immigrants and people who are looking to change careers.

Returnships can contribute diversity to your organization that can be hard to come by when recruiting through more traditional means. “Even people without technical experience may have the soft skills your organization needs,” Jones says. “Just because they haven’t worked in an official capacity doesn’t mean they haven’t been developing amazing soft skills.” Returnships offer on-the-job hard skills training, so you can focus on recruiting for those great soft skills.

A Low-Risk Chance for Good Long-Term Hires

There are certainly advantages for companies that implement returnship programs. “Our research shows that hiring rates from the returnship programs we measure average 85%, with hiring rates more broadly ranging from 50% to 100% of cohort participants,” says Carol Fishman Cohen, chairwoman and co-founder of career re-entry firm iRelaunch.

“Establishing a returnship signals the value the company places upon employee constituents,” Cohen says. This increases your organization’s reputation for being a great place to work. Additionally, since returnships tend to function like traditional internships, you expose your company to very little risk. On the contrary, by “testing” these potential employees, you actually increase retention and reduce turnover rates.

Expect Some Work on the Front End

Although returnships can provide amazing opportunities for both workers and organizations, don’t expect to set one up without putting a lot of work into it. “To be successful, recruiters, managers and mentors need to be identified and trained, the orientation and professional development sessions must be set up, and HR classification of the participants and compensation levels have to be set,” Cohen says.

One way to ease this transition is by identifying any nontraditional employees that already exist at your organization. “They can be key ambassadors for the program, and can also be mentors and presenters to the first cohort during your organization’s pilot run,” Cohen says.