By Sally Ann Moyer
What do you do when there’s a gap in your organization? While it could be tempting to fill the open position with an existing employee, the best candidate might be currently outside your organization. Talent acquisition is all about finding the right person to step in and fit the demands of an open position in a way that will lead to your company’s greater success.
You want the best person for each role, not just the person who has been with the company the longest. The search is easier when you’re hiring for an entry-level position because you can choose from a new crop of college students graduating each semester. However, hiring for an executive position is tougher. Often, the best employees are already putting their talents to use at other organizations. They have jobs already because they do what they can well. These talented individuals might not be willing to leave their current positions for your company.
You must either promote internally or look elsewhere. Outside executive hires can be one of the toughest facets of talent acquisition but sometimes they’re your only option. So where can you find this pool of management-trained candidates? Some companies hire outside executive firms to recruit candidates, but there’s also something you can do internally. The answer lies in a new idea called returnships. Goldman Sachs trademarked the term in 2008 to describe a “short-term paid position designed for a professional who’d been out of the workforce for several yours.” Returnships solve many common recruitment and selection problems.
Poaching from other companies can harm your organization. Someone might succeed in a managerial position in one organization based on a number of factors beyond leadership skills. The executive also fits well that company’s corporate culture. Simply hiring laterally away from other companies runs the risk of finding someone whose personality might overshadow actual executive abilities. You could also create bad blood at the new executive’s former company. Returnships remove this problem.
Developing a returnship program also helps with succession planning. You can openly admit that not everyone is designed to be a manager. Instead of feeling forced to always promote when an executive position opens, you can encourage your employees other ways.
Returnships give you an effective way to bring talent to your organization with a win-win situation. You get to hire experienced leaders and qualified workers get to jump back in the game without starting over. These return-to-work programs can be “critical as a springboard back into the workforce” for those who do not want their previous experience to go to waste. You will be able to save money on training and development because these returning professionals already have experience in management positions, they just need a refresher.
Unemployment statistics are not the best gauge of job availability. Often, positions go unfulfilled because “companies struggle to find the right applicants.” Most jobs require more than entry-level experience and sometimes companies feel forced to hire their less than ideal candidate just to fill the position. Returnships help companies find the best applicants for the job from a traditionally ignored talent pool.
The easiest way to establish a returnship program is to loosely model it after your current internship program. While those on a returnship will not be doing the same work as internships since they are at the opposite ends of the work experience spectrum, some of the core elements of their positions are the same. Both groups will work at their positions for a limited amount of time. You could even enrich your internship program by establishing mentoring relationships between the returning professionals and your interns. The groups can participate in the same orientation exercises and follow a similar application process. Also just like interns, not all returning professionals will receive a job offer at your company.
While you can treat returnships like a trial-hiring process, make the actual job a separate application. You must first prepare your returning professionals before they are qualified to work for your company. At Goldman Sachs, returnships include education on industry changes that occurred while the participants were not working. Some companies put returning professionals into rotational cycles to help them discover their best fit within the organization.
Instead of having to train new candidates, returnships let you “skim the top talent” to suit your organization’s needs. The criterion for a returnship program immediately narrows down your selection to only the best of the best. This makes talent acquisition a choice between several great candidates instead of a convoluted range of applicants.
What do you think about using returnships for talent acquisition?