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Businesses using 'returnship' programmes to address diversity: Hays

AS more businesses put diversity on their agendas, many are using "returnship" programmes to address diversity, as women are identified as professionals who leave the workplace in order to raise a family.

This also helps to ensure organisations have a workforce which is more representative of their customer base, recruitment firm Hays said on Tuesday.

Returnship programmes are generally aimed at professionals who have been out of work for at least two years and above, and usually involve formal paid placements which may lead to permanent employment.

Large firms adopting returnship programmes include PayPal, Willmott Dixon, Target, Microsoft, Unilever, IBM, Vodafone and Dell, Hays said.

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To ensure returnship programmes are seen as attractive, organisations are offering part-time or flexible roles, before later considering full-time employment.

Returnship programmes are also created as a hiring strategy to help address skill shortages. Hays Singapore's regional director Grant Torrens said this allows the company to bring people with vital skills back into the workforce.

Likewise, returnship programmes will give professionals the opportunity to relaunch their career and "even upskill", as these programmes would aid in their transition back into the workforce – making them more employable in the process, Hays added.

That being said, organisations need to ensure the return is seen as a worthwhile investment as costs of a returnship programme are high – so companies must be "aware and realistic" when starting the schemes, Mr Torrens added.

This means identifying where the skill shortages are in their business, and which areas would benefit from diversity. Organisations should also use quality data and evidence to build up the business case for a returnship programme, and state their aims and objectives from the start.

Aside from starting small and expanding the programme gradually, Hays said businesses also need to keep connected with the programme group to ensure they have the support needed, provide a point of contact in case of issues, and evaluate the programme through feedback.

Senior-level sponsorship and buy-in from the wider business is also important. This means ensuring managers who run the projects and hiring manager are trained and fully briefed.