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“Returnships” Make Rejoining the Workforce a Reality

February 26, 2019
| ByJulia Pinzler

Finding and retaining skilled workers is a huge challenge for companies today. On the positive side, the economy is booming – but that means it is a job seekers’ market. As a result, HR departments are looking for creative ways to attract and keep the right people for the job. From corporate alumni engagement initiatives to employee recognition programs, hiring managers are trying strategic and creative ways to keep the best talent involved with the company. “Returnships” are part of this trend. Also called “re-entry internships,” returnships are a way to bring past employees or other workers back into the fold.

What Is a Returnship?

Returnships are unique job opportunities designed for people who may have left the job market for one reason or another. The idea of a returnship is to help someone restart their career after an extended absence. People who may be helped by returnships include:

  • Parents: mothers and fathers who took time off to raise children
  • Caregivers: people who left work to help sick family members or friends
  • Recovering Workers: employees who may have had to take time off due to personal health issues, work injuries, or other injuries or accidents (such as a car accident)
  • Sabbatical Takers: workers who left to pursue studies or personal growth
  • Unemployed Workers: people who may have had a difficult time finding a job in the past due to poor economic conditions or other events outside their control
What is the Purpose of a Returnship?

The returnship is also called a re-entry internship because it is designed to ease a worker back into their career. The employee won’t get the full responsibilities they may have had prior to their absence. However, these “return internships” are not “entry-level” such as those created for college students and young workers.

Returnships are generally designed to ease the transition back to a senior-level or executive position, although they can also be implemented for middle management or other professionals.

Returnships offer great benefits to both returning employees and companies. Managers get access to seasoned, hardworking talent that they may not have hired before and workers can come back to the job and get up to speed on the latest in the business world.

How Do Returnships Work?

Returnships can be structured in many different ways, but they typically run three to six months, with some as short as a few weeks. Depending on the program, the re-entry internship may or may not guarantee a full-time job when the trial period has ended.

Training, mentoring, and coaching are typical additions to a re-entry program. Technical training, even for non-technical staff, can be an important component, since a five-year hiatus is a long time when it comes to even the most basic of business technologies.

In some returnships, the re-entry interns get an opportunity to try different roles to see what might be the best fit. This offers terrific opportunities for people looking to transition or expand their careers. Companies can also build bonds and relationships with returning employees through the strategic use of social recognition programs.

Examples of Returnships in Action

Since Goldman Sachs coined the term “returnship,” many more companies have set up re-entry programs to benefit from the untapped talent out there. Here are a few examples:

Path Forward

The aptly named company Return Path is a data provider based out of New York that decided to use returnships to attract more women tech workers. The program was so successful it was spun off as its own entity, called Path Forward. This organization now helps other companies use returnships to bring parents and caregivers back into the corporate fold.

Credit Suisse

This multi-national financial company’s Real Returns Program offers talented senior professionals who have taken an extended career break a smooth transition back into the office. The program runs for approximately twelve weeks and gives talented professionals the opportunity to ramp up their skills, update their industry knowledge, boost their confidence, and seamlessly transition back into the workplace.

Returnship Programs Benefit Both Workers and Companies

For parents, caregivers, and the unemployed, returnship programs offer a wonderful opportunity to re-enter the workforce. For companies, these programs help attract and retain the best talent while getting them up to speed on the latest job challenges.

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