Repats take note: returnships a growing trend

Although the concept has been around for a number of years, there is growing interest in ‘returnships’ – special return-to-work programmes that help people reboot their careers after a long hiatus.

A brief history…

Returnships were first introduced in the US by Goldman Sachs in 2008 before moving across the pond to Britain in 2014 with fellow investment banks Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank. By 2015, we learned of a small number of members from the Global Connection community, who had signed up a returnship. Since then interest has been steadily rising. As of January 2019, there were more than 160 diverse companies across the globe investing in return-to-work programmes.

A pipeline of talent

The programme has clear appeal for anyone who has taken time off from their career (perhaps to raise a family, become a caregiver, or – and here’s looking at you – follow their partner on an international assignment). For the ‘returnee’, these programmes create a path to reenter the workforce and update skills. For businesses, they represent a ‘pipeline of talent that already knows the ropes’ but needs some training on the newest ways to get the job done. So a win-win situation for both parties.

Boosting national economies

Furthermore, besides bringing a wealth of experience to employers, the returnees have great potential to boost economies substantially through tax revenue. Recent research in the US shows that more than 3 million women are currently hoping to return to work after an extended period out of the workforce – and yes, many men (caregivers, stay-at-home dads, etc) are also out there looking to restart their careers after extended breaks.

Know what they want

More and more large corporations are certainly keen. “These are workers who understand the culture and expectations of the workforce,” said Diane Borhani – director of Deloitte’s evolving workforce strategy and innovation. “They understand how to manage work/life balance and come with a readiness factor. They know what they want, and are committed to getting it done.” In over three years, Deloitte’s Encore programme enjoyed a successful conversion rate (returnees to hires) of almost 100%. Path Forward, a nonprofit that connects returners and companies, has also organised returnships for people who had already been offered a full-time position but wished to freshen up their skills before diving back in at the deep end.


This article was originally published (in early March 2020) for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

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