Tapping into the Returner Market – Seven tips for Employers

27 Sep 2019

Business Business School


It’s indisputable that returners offer several advantages to companies looking to recruit.  The rise of the returner market is largely a modern phenomenon and certainly no surprise as employers seek to adopt a more flexible approach to employment practices.

Returners are seen as highly valuable not only because they bring existing skills to the workplace, but because their life experience, maturity and commitment are considered huge assets to any business.

When you also consider that some returners have already been prepared and upskilled before returning to work via programmes like Reginite Bootcamp, you can see why more and more firms are recruiting from this talent pool.

Reignite Bootcamp covers a range of courses from Project Management, to Digital Marketing, enabling a returner to build on previous experience and gain insight into new areas of interest.  In essence, Reignite Bootcamp bridges the gap between existing and new skills providing employers with highly skilled and motivated staff.

But as we know, employment is a two-way street, and no two returners are the same. So how should employers prepare when considering a returner?
Although not all returners are female, a recent survey conducted by Women Returners provides some insight that employers should consider before employment.

  1. Job Satisfaction

Money, of course, is important, but from the survey over 50% of returners identified that professional identify and work satisfaction were key drivers to pursuing a career again.  Many returners simply missed a social element of working and wanted to reignite their professional identity.  The returner market is predominantly a more mature workforce, so candidates tend to be more focused on what they want, therefore securing a job role that is rewarding and valued is high on the agenda.

  1. Pay

Unsurprisingly pay was still cited as important, with over 20% interviewed stating that financial reasons alone were a prime reason for returning to work.    The key element for returners though was parity, with the returner market wanting pay to be in line with their specific skills and experience.

It is therefore essential for quality and fairness that returner pay is at a competitive level which recognises their skills and experience, the nature of the work they are doing and the level at which they are returning.
Feedback from returners also highlighted the importance of gender pay balance in a place of work as well as ensuring parity between returners and existing employees.

  1. Flexibility

Flexibility was a key element with research concluding that many female returners going back to work wanted some degree of flexibility on hours. Employers may want to review the potential of offering flexible options, including home working, flexible hours or even job share.

As Jemeela Quraishi, of CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), commented ❝We know returners have a lot to offer employers in terms of skills and experience but lack flexible working opportunities. By sticking to the traditional 9 to 5 model, employers are missing out on the wealth of talent that’s out there. By making what are often minor adjustments to allow flexibility, many more returners will be able to simultaneously access work and manage their caring commitments. ❞

Given the likelihood that returner candidates often prefer a degree of flexibility, it is best if the employer and candidate discuss this at an early stage.

If you are willing to offer flexible options, say so within your advertising. This act alone will widen the pool of people who apply and help attract the best talent.

It is also recommended that flexible working practices are discussed during the application process or interview. Candidates may be keen to ask about your approach to flexible hours, but the reality is they may worry about raising this with an employer. If the employer takes the initiative, this will put the applicant at ease and enable a more open conversation.

You may even want to consider a trial period if you are offering a role on a flexible basis, which you can jointly review at a later date.

  1. Organisational Culture

The culture of an organisation and how it is perceived internally is important.
If your company has adopted or is considering adopting flexible working practices and is looking to recruit returners, buy-in from the top of the company is essential.  Leaders need to act as role-models so their practice, policy and beliefs cascade down.    It is important for employers to account for the current culture of their operation, identify barriers and strategise how the organisation can adapt accordingly.

  1. Support

Returners that have had an extended career break cited that supportive line managers were vital in integrating them back into the workplace.  With an extended absence from the workplace, the majority of returners had some trepidation in returning to work and again wanted employers to recognise this.  As such employers should pay attention to ensuring support is in place, particularly at the start of employment.   Line management could have training or have an appropriate understanding behind returner recruitment and communicate this with internal teams.

  1. Communication

Communication throughout the recruitment process must be clear.
Returners are not all “retuning mums” and could have taken a career break for numerous reasons.

Communicate the reasons for recruiting returners internally so people across your organisation understand the rationale and benefits of recruiting from a returner programme or indeed directly. Communication is intrinsic in changing perceptions and ensuring a culture of support and openness thrives.  When returners join, they are then more likely to feel supported and encouraged.

  1. Seniority

Most returners wanted to return to work at the same level as when they left employment. Employers seeking returners should recognise that out of date skills and knowledge can often be easily tackled by programmes like Reignite Bootcamp and by having a supportive and helpful team assisting in the transition.

Some returners may choose a lower-level position to manage family commitments better or indeed may transition to a completely new role or industry.  Therefore from an employer perspective, it isn’t recommended to reject an applicant for being over-qualified without first checking what their goals and expectations are.

Employers are however encouraged to think out of the box, because there may be an outstanding candidate available if the employer is able to offer flexible working.

St Helens Chamber is currently working with a number of returners who are looking for their next opportunity. Click here to read their pen pictures.
To find out more, contact Danielle Brooks at Danielle.Brooks@sthelenschamber.com or call 01744 742013