Key Business Benefits Of Returnships For Flexible Companies

30th Mar 2023

Flexible working and Returnships are revolutionising employee brand strategy as companies compete to hire diverse talent. Professional women returning to work are now empowered to re-enter flexible working corporate roles after a 3-6 month executive internship in a flexible company. These on-ramps refresh skills, provide mentoring and workshops, and give women time to regain professional self-confidence before re-entering leadership roles commensurate with their experience.

In the UK alone, over half a million professional women are on extended career breaks, primarily due to raising children or caring commitments. 75% of these women want to return to work in corporate roles but fear they will not be considered due to gaps in their CVs. Data is similar for the US. Many educated women returning to work are under-employed in jobs below their skill level or working fewer hours than they desire. Their return can be facilitated by flexible companies showcasing Returnships, which provide a clear route back to their senior positions with part-time, hybrid or flexible working hours.

So what are the business benefits of Returnships for flexible companies?

Why Returnships are good for your company

Top flexible companies (including Amazon, Bank of England, Convex, DAC Beachcroft, Fidelity International, FDM Group, J.P. Morgan and Moody’s) were asked why Returnships are good for business at a “Back to your Future” conference in 2021. Their responses:

  • Returnships allow us to reflect the society that we serve
  • We are passionate about driving our D&I agenda. Any hiring process comes with a risk, but a Returnship allows both the employer and the returners to take that risk in a safe environment.
  • Returnships allow us to wade into a pool of talent – women returning to work who are highly capable, highly talented and uniquely brave because they’re taking themselves out of their comfort zone to return to work after an extended career break.
We view our flexible working culture as our competitive advantage and are intentional about diversity and inclusion, particularly around our experienced talent hires. As 90% of people on a career break are women, Returnships offer a fantastic opportunity to have a tangible impact on our D&I agenda.

Flexible working Returnships provide female representation at all levels

For every one woman that joins at senior leadership level, two are leaving – primarily due to the pressure of family commitments and the need for flexible working. Earlier in their careers, young women do not have enough female role models and mentors to guide them. Flexible companies are creating Returnship programs to address gender inequality at the management level, thus evolving to meet the flexible working needs of older female executives. 

By providing women returning to work with a bridge to transition smoothly back into mid to senior roles with flexible hours, these forward-thinking, flexible companies have female representation at all levels. They are seeing an increase in employee loyalty and retention. Flexible working Returnships give a clear message to female employees that there is a structured, supported way back to their leadership roles, and mothers should no longer fear they must sacrifice their careers if they take an extended break to raise children or care for loved ones. Don’t automatically disregard candidates with long CV gaps; this is a highly experienced talent pool!

Does your current recruitment process penalise women returning to work after extended career breaks? If so, you miss the opportunity to tap into older, corporate female talent. A long career break does not dissolve talent, experience or potential; older professional women returning to work are more committed than ever. Enriched with life experiences and having raised children, they are at a stage where they need a Returnship to up-skill, re-establish networks and have a brief period of mentoring to prepare them for flexible working leadership roles. If your organisation’s recruitment process or technology disregards women returning to work with extended career breaks, rethink it by leveraging a flexible working Returnship program to access a pipeline of experienced, professional female talent into your mid to senior-level positions.

Returnships promote flexible working culture and diversity

The business benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce are multiple and flexible companies outperform those that do not offer flexible working in that they are recruiting diverse teams which are more competitive and responsive to market trends and make better business decisions, resulting in increased profits. These flexible companies have their pick of a range of diverse talent pools, empowering employees with a degree of freedom to create a working life around home commitments and preferences. Highly visible, flexible working Returnships attract talented, experienced women, often in their 40’s and 50’s, representing a company’s primary source for gender-diverse senior leadership and board positions. 

Flexible companies are showcasing a clear diversity message – they value older women returning to work after extended career breaks and respect the unique perspective they bring to management roles. Flexible companies market their flexible working cultures as great places to work, setting them apart from other employers – a key factor in talent strategy when two-thirds of job seekers want to work in an inclusive, diverse, flexible working environment. 

Returnships enable mutual trial for companies and workers

Associated risk in the hiring process is eliminated since a Returnship is a fixed-term corporate internship that provides no guarantee of permanent employment. The flexible company and the participant have several months to evaluate fitness for a role and flexible working culture before a permanent executive contract is offered or accepted. Conversion rate and retention are high, with 85% of women returning to work in permanent, flexible working contracts after a Returnship. This demonstrates the appreciation, dedication and skill that talented women bring back to their senior roles and the fundamental fact that women returning to work often want flexible working hours to allow for home commitments. 

Finally, Sally Reader at Hargreaves Lansdown explains why a flexible working Returnships is a welcome solution for professional women returning to work: “After 14 years as a full-time mother, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to return to my corporate career on a part-time basis. The flexible working Returnship program has allowed me to step back into management whilst still supporting my family.”