Supporting women returning to work after a career break would generate an estimated £1.1 billion for the UK economy annually, so why is this valuable talent pool consistently overlooked?
Will Akerman, Founder and Managing Director of MyKindaFuture, the UK’s leading underrepresented talent specialist, explores the issue and offers his insights into the huge potential these individuals have to offer.
The Value of Returners
The term ‘returner’ can be used to describe any individual who is returning to the workplace after a period of time away, for example, after parental leave or illness. The returner talent pool is vast, with an estimated two million people making up the market, 90 percent of which are women.
Historically, this talented group of individuals has been discriminated against and undervalued by employers. In fact, an incredible two thirds of female returners work below their potential when they return to the workplace. This is an appalling injustice and demonstrates the desperate need for change.
Aside from the moral and ethical obligations that a business has to create a diverse workforce, hiring and retaining talent from the returner market can also offer real business benefits.
There is a common, and entirely illogical, misconception that an employee’s capability will somehow decline whilst they are out of the workforce. In fact, the reverse is true. As opposed to those who remain in a role and leverage the same skills every day, returners have had the opportunity to develop skills that they didn’t exercise before. As a result, they re-enter the workplace better equipped and with a fresh perspective.
In addition to the valuable skills that these individuals stand to bring to a business, there are practical advantages of hiring returners. Employing talent from this group can help companies achieve their diversity targets and positively impact the UK economy.
Despite the huge benefits that this talent pool can offer businesses, there are countless barriers standing in their way. In fact, this group remain one of the most overlooked in the UK, to the detriment of businesses and the economy.
Many of these issues stem directly from employers and begin as early as the recruitment process. Lots of companies don’t specifically target returners as they might other diversity groups. Some processes go further and actively discriminate against individuals not currently in employment. This is both immoral and nonsensical.
Sadly, for the returners themselves, the barriers faced often include their own perceptions of themselves. Those who have been out of the workplace can quickly feel isolated and question their value as employee, preventing them from staying in a role or even applying in the first place. Tragically, these feelings of self-doubt often stem from learned experience, with thousands of returners in the UK made to feel worthless, unwanted and unwelcome by potential employers every year. As a result, as many as 70 percent of women feel anxious about taking a career break at all.
This is unacceptable, not only from a human perspective but also from a business perspective. We know from experience that people value the relationship that they build with their employer now more than ever before. Employees want to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace and this is likely to be felt by returners even more strongly than other groups.
Employers which actively cultivate a sense of belonging for returners will be rewarded with loyal, productive and happy members of the team, but this must start from day one.
A handful of proactive employers are already doing a fantastic job when it comes to attracting, hiring and then supporting returners once they have joined the workforce. Sadly, these companies are in the minority.
There are several factors impacting this. Many employers fail to recognise the value that returners have to offer entirely and continue to look for talent in the same places. For those that do acknowledge the skills of returners, there remains challenges in place, including receiving buy-in from senior leadership. Even for businesses which are entirely committed to engaging with returners, rolling out a programme which ensures everyone is made to feel valued as an individual is hard to achieve on a large scale.
Digital solutions can offer a fantastic way to counter these challenges and stop the huge injustice of talented, underrepresented individuals being unfairly disadvantaged. MyKindaFuture’s online connectr platform helps companies create a sense of belonging on a large scale by offering candidates the opportunity to connect with mentors who already work at the business. This builds relationships and helps employees feel at home even before they have joined the company.
Whilst it must be accepted that those returning to the workplace will spend a short period of time re-acclimatising, those who invest in building these relationships will reap the huge rewards that hiring from this overlooked talent pool offers.
For more information about MyKindaFuture or connectr, visit www.mykindafuture.com
Are you looking to return to work after a career break? Searching for advice and tips? WeAreTheCity has a whole dedicated section to returnships and returning to work. You can find open returnship opportunities, advice for experts about returning to work and tips on flexible working.