NatWest Markets has a different way of reaching out to returners – it matches skillsets with the opportunities rather than the other way around and says this approach has led to a number of successful permanent placements.
The business launched its first paid returnship programme in 2016. It has backing from the top of the organisation – the programme is sponsored by Chris Marks, the CEO of NatWest Markets.
The programme is aimed at those who have a background in a finance-related business and were at senior management grade when they took their career break.
An initial advertisement calls on suitable returners to send in their cvs. These are sifted by resourcing manager Julia Daffy, who coordinates the programme. She looks at the skillsets on offer, liaises with line managers and matches returners to suitable NWM projects. “We match the skillsets with the opportunities we have and try to be as open and creative as possible. The emphasis is on how we can make it work. That approach, rather than advertising for specific roles, gives us greater flexibility to get more people through the door and back to work,” she says. Line managers are briefed in advance on the need to adopt a more open perspective, given the candidates have not been in the workplace for a while and will not have recent work-based experience to draw on.
Those candidates who are selected are offered a range of support. Julia gives them advice on what to expect in the recruitment process. “When you have not worked for a while it can be scary going to an interview,” she says. She also asks the candidates what work patterns would be best for them and liaises with hiring managers to see if solutions can be found that suit both parties.
Successful candidates are given a performance coach when they start the programme who provides one-to-one support. They also have a buddy who is in a similar role in the business and a mentor who helps them open doors internally and provides careers advice. Many of the mentoring relationships have continued after the 12-week returner programme.
There were three candidates on the 2016 programme and all three were offered permanent jobs. The 2017 programme involved five candidates. All were offered roles at NatWestMarkets. Returners are mentored to see how they progress and the first cohort meet regularly for lunch, having formed their own alumni network.
Julia says that the programme has been as much a learning curve for NatWest Markets as for the candidates. One of the big lessons involves timing. This year’s programme will run from April to June as it works better for candidates, many of whom are mums and may just have got their children started at school in September. It also makes sense for business, given the end of the year is a very busy period. Julia adds: “The other big learning is just how much demand there is for women returning to work – it really is a very competitive market place out there.”
In 2017, the programme included coaching for the first time and Julia says NatWest Markets is getting better at matching participants with the right mentors and buddies and at working with line managers. Julia provides line managers and candidates with a checklist and ensures they both deliver by keeping in regular contact. She also gets line managers who have taken part in the programme and other HR business partners to spread the word and encourage other managers to consider taking on a returner.
She anticipates that the programme with continue to grow in size, although in a sustainable way, and to happen annually. “It has the support of our leadership team and we have been able to secure some very hard to find skillsets through it,” she says.
She adds that it is vital to keep improving the programme and to learn from other businesses running returner initiatives. She says: “NatWest Markets understands that it is not just about the money, but also the transition back to work, the role itself, the flexibility, the support – the whole package plays a part.”