The Rise of Returnships: How to Get the Most Out of Returning Workers

3 min read

January 09, 2023

Kids. Health issues. Caring for an elderly parent. These are just some reasons employees might take an extended break from work. The pandemic, however, caused a surge in people exiting the workforce.

At its outset, US employment fell by approximately 25 million people in March and April 2020. The following year, over 47 million Americans quit their jobs during the Great Resignation of 2021. The good news? In June 2022, 94% of people who became unemployed during the pandemic reported they would consider returning to work, according to CNBC’s All-America Workforce Survey. As many of these individuals seek employment again, it can be a bit daunting after not using their skills for a while.

Returnships - a type of internship geared towards mid-career individuals - are the ideal solution. They give returners formal support and training as they ease back into things and have the potential to turn into permanent roles.

Many companies are taking advantage of this type of program. Returnships are an excellent way for companies to recognize the value mid-career professionals bring. Returners can refresh their skills in just a short period while helping employers create a more sustainable workforce composed of seasoned professionals.

The key to a successful returnship program is to make it educational and engaging. Unified communications (UC) technology helps create the perfect blend of collaboration and connection needed to make returners feel at home in the labor force again.

Reasons Returners Rejoice

It’s natural for people to be nervous as they look to re-enter the workforce after an extended break, but returnships offer many benefits to ease the transition back to work:

Skill Refreshers and Training

Getting up to speed with industry changes is a must for employees who've been away. Returnships include training designed for swift reuptake. This helps returners get back in action quickly, so upward mobility isn’t hampered. Communication and collaboration technology makes training easy, even if colleagues work in a remote or hybrid setting. Features like a mobile-first design, file sharing, collaborative workspaces, and group chat help returners quickly get answers from more experienced colleagues.

Mentorship and Support

Regardless of age or experience, many feel anxious about returning to the office after a year or more out of the work environment, be it physical or virtual. Employers are recognizing this and bridging the gap with options for coaching and career planning, as well as part-time and hybrid schedules. UC technology ensures everyone can stay on the same page, no matter their schedule, location, or time zone. A single application for voice, video, messaging, presence, and audio conferencing keeps returners connected to co-workers. Seamless connectivity and collaboration make returners feel part of the work family from day one.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Data reported and analyzed by entities, including Pew and the National Women’s Law Center, established that women exited the workforce in significantly higher numbers than men during the pandemic. While women are now returning in droves, the gap is still significant. To promote more effective DEI on this front, many organizations are explicitly seeking women to fill their returnship positions. Earlier this year, Ilya Shmidt, a member of the Forbes Business Council, included returnships in her list of the top five ways to bring women back into the workforce. Communications technology that provides on-the-go connectivity and the flexibility to work from anywhere supports women and other under-represented groups trying to find a work-life balance.

Employers Enjoy an Edge

Returnships also offers a host of benefits to employers looking to fill mid-level openings and position themselves for a solid future:

Industry Experience and Technical Skills

Returners offer a breadth of experiential knowledge and technical expertise. In addition to the skills they acquired before they left the workforce, returners may have learned new ones while not working through formal or self-driven educational opportunities. Due to their desire to find new employment, returners are often highly motivated, helping them come up to speed quickly on any new skills or information in their industry. The option to turn the returnship into a permanent position gives companies greater flexibility and control over finding the best fit for each job opening.

Professionalism and Broader Perspectives

Traditionally referred to as “soft skills,” many companies currently need seasoned professionals who are proficient at mentoring new staff, delegating responsibility, and fostering teamwork. Returners span generations from Millennial to Gen X and even some Boomers, so employers stand to gain a font of wisdom. Returners have the potential to help develop and guide Gen Z employees who are now entering the face-to-face work environment for the first time. The differing perspectives found within intergenerational workplaces can also help businesses understand and speak to a broader range of customers.

Future Growth and Reputational Value

Returnship programs demonstrate your company’s commitment to inclusivity and flexibility. They also show your current employees more than one path to career success, including extended time off. As workers place more value on these qualities, returnships can help attract high-quality returners, increase the retention rate of current employees, and improve your reputation in the industry.

As returnships rise in popularity, companies that use modern technology can increase the success of such programs and amplify the benefits. Discover how Mitel can help your business reap the most substantial return on returnships.

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