For the third year running, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is holding its Returning Talent programme for men and women who have taken career breaks to care for relatives and are looking to return to the workplace.
For the first time this year the workshops are preceded by a one-day conference for 50 would-be returners who have had at least three years out of the workplace. This allows the organisers to open the programme up to more people since demand is always high, but also ensures that those who proceed to the more in-depth part of the programme are sure they want to return to work.
Lauren Saunders, head of Diversity and Inclusion for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says: “It gives people the opportunity to find out more and have high-level conversations and to dig into what it might mean for them on a personal level to return to work.”
Those who still want to be considered for the in-depth workshop programme that follows put their names forward at the end of the conference. In previous years some people have completed the in-depth workshops and decided they didn’t want to go back to work. “It means we can tailor the workshops more towards the specifics of returning to work and buddy participants up with recruiters following the programme,” says Saunders.
The programme, which has been mostly made up of women in the past, does not have a target for how many people it hopes will get a job after completing the course. “For us it’s about engaging with a valuable talent pipeline,” says Saunders. Last year around 50% of workshop participants got a job or took up a self employment opportunity, one of them with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and another with Executive Coaching who help run the programme. The jobs they have taken are not necessarily in financial services. “We still judge it a success if people decide they don’t want to return to work,” says Saunders. “The purpose is to support people making those decisions and to give them the tools they need to facilitate their return to work.”
The conference, which takes place on 28 February, sets the scene, talking about changes in the workplace and economic landscape. It then focuses on personal issues, such as confidence and childcare, and provides practical advice and support. There are tips on CV writing and interview techniques and one to one sessions on juggling priorities where participants can hear success stories from people who have been able to balance work and family commitments.
“It makes people consider what they might need to think through,” says Saunders.
The two-day workshops which follow, on 12 and 19 March, allow returners to have more intimate conversations with executive coaches and many participants stay in touch afterwards. Last year’s participants set up a Facebook group and organised events to get together and maintain their new network.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch plans to keep its Returning Talent programme going for the next few years. Saunders says the feedback has been great and there has been a lot of interest.