Best Practices

Best Practices in Returnship Programs

November 2019

In recent years, return-to-work programs, or returnships have been implemented in more corporations. Their mission is to reconnect workers with needed skills as they plug back into the professional world after they’ve had a break in their career.

This report focuses on the best practices of some corporations in implementing and advancing their returnship programs.

Introduction to Returnships

In recent years, return-to-work programs, or returnships have been implemented in more corporations. Their mission is to reconnect workers with needed skills as they plug back into the professional world after they’ve had a break in their career.

Returnship programming typically targets professional-level workers who have stepped off their career path to raise a family, become a caregiver or serve in the military.

Returnships can be a win-win for employers and workers; employers get a chance to work with program participants and gauge their performance before hiring them, and professionals get a chance to regain their careers and become marketable again.

Returnships also expand the talent pool for employers in a tight labor market.

Programs for Returning Workers

Data provider Return Path initially launched its Return to Work program of internships for returning mid-career professionals to increase the representation of women in the company, particularly in technical roles.

The initiative was so successful the company established the program as a standalone nonprofit organization called Path Forward, designed to set up similar programs for other companies. The nonprofit helps corporate HR departments set up mid-career internships for a flat fee.

The internships are to be 20-week, paid positions available to individuals who have been out of the professional workforce for at least two years to care for children, a spouse, or a parent. The goal is that employers will hire interns as full-time workers at the end of the temporary stint.

Return Path reports more than 80 percent of participants across six of the companies were offered continued employment at the conclusion of the program.

BP’s Returnship Program, hosted in partnership with The Mom Project, gives
women and men who go out on extended family or personal leave the
professional development and engagement support they need to reenter the

The program returns after the success of its 2017 pilot program and is a
compensated, full-time commitment and professionals have potential
opportunities for full-time roles at BP at its conclusion.

The company announced that it was extending the program from a six-month
commitment to nine months and increasing the participants to nine
accomplished women and men.

Estee Lauder’s Back-to-Work Flexibility program is coupled with their
recently expanded U.S. leave and gives employees six additional weeks
to transition gradually after leave.

In the first 14 months, more than 140 employees used the back-to-work program.

Barclays expanded upon the success of its apprenticeship program (which appointed over 2,000 apprentices) to offer apprenticeships targeted to candidates over age 50 who are returning to work or looking for a new career.

The bank said it considers mature workers from unrelated fields, and that the only experience needed is practical experience. This is not a PR stunt; the bank states it values older workers who have life experience and can better relate to the financial needs of mature customers.

Barclays already has a Digital Eagles offering, a team at Barclays established to help customers with online issues. An extension of this is Barclays’ Silver Eagles, a team of tech-savvy older workers geared up to help mature customers with online banking.

The new apprenticeship program builds on this effort to capitalize on the life skills of experienced employees. The bank predicts that bringing in apprentices over 50 years of age will make the institution more accessible, and ensure a better fit with more mature customers.

Goldman Sachs Returnship Program was specifically designed for individuals who have left the workforce for two or more years and are ready to return. This paid program offers returning workers opportunities in a variety of divisions.

The returnship offers a guided period of exploration, and provides individuals
with an opportunity to sharpen their skills in a work environment that may have changed significantly since their last experience as an employee.

It also gives participants the ability to explore a new area of expertise and
learn new skills. The program was launched in the US in 2008, and given its
success, was expanded globally.

TD Bank is working with iRelaunch, the pioneering career reentry company, to offer a 16-week career transition program for financial professionals who are relaunching their careers after an extended family, medical, or personal leave.

The program includes skill refreshers, mentoring, coaching, networking
and a personalized development plan. It will begin in 2020.

The program will help professionals, especially women, successfully resume their careers through coaching, mentoring, personal development, career revitalization and networking.

Centrica’s HitReturn Program is targeted toward senior-level professionals who are seeking to return to the workforce following a career break of two years or more. Launched in partnership with Mars and Vodafone, it is the first cross-company partnership in the UK.

The pilot program offers 12-week, paid returnships, which provide participants the opportunity to work on professional assignments and to receive expert coaching. Each of the three participating companies also provides a mentor, as well as access to all relevant internal networks.

Job opportunities are based in the head offices of the three companies in areas including marketing, legal, finance operations, technology, and human resources.

Participation in the program does not guarantee a permanent job, but landing a permanent job is a strong possibility.

IBM’s Tech Re-Entry Program is for talented technical professionals who
took a break from the workforce and are looking to restart their careers.
This paid returnship program enables participants to work on projects that
match your expertise, interests, and abilities and could lead to full-time

Participants are able to experience the breadth of IBM resources while updating their expertise, developing new skills and forging new relationships.

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