It is easier for professionals to jump back

Returning to the workplace is an exciting option for anyone on a career break. However, integration into mainstream can be anything but exciting as many such job seekers are often faced with several challenges. But firms, today, are leaving no stone unturned to make this transition smooth and hassle free.

A bright young investment banker had just been put through a hi-flier program by her organization. On her part, she was just where she had planned to be professional, but life had other plans. Her father was diagnosed with a terminal illness and she decided to take time off to care for him. Last year, she decided to come back. Her decision came just as corporate India began to make it easier for professionals who’ve taken time away to return and re-invent their careers in a way that works better for them than their 90 hour a week pasts might have. It’s not just women who step off the career track; some men are also increasingly taking time off. MA who had spent five years, not only taking care of their daughter, but also managing people had projects on a volunteer basis at a local NGO, found that his skills were sought after by corporate India, and the organization that he worked for previously was willing to offer him flexi hours so that he could continue being there for his young daughter.

Today it is easier than it has been for professionals to jump back into a career and to craft a return that works for them. The motivation for companies is two fold. There’s skilled worker shortage; and second, is increasing evidence that the next generation of young workers want more flexible work arrangements. The result is companies are waking up to the idea of welcoming back seasoned professionals. One such initiative is the Tata Second Careers Internship Program (SCIP) for women. In its second phase, Tata SCIP began in June 2008. It is an intermediary program aimed at developing alternative talent pools and facilitating career transitions. It focuses on women professionals who have taken a career break. Tata Group companies provide live business projects covering approx 500 hours engagement spread over six months on a flexi time basis.

Many women, who have exceptional educational backgrounds and are doing very well professionally, take the decision to take a break Programs like these try to facilitate their re-entry to the workplace ensuring that corporates do not lose out on their talent. Tata itself recruits from the talent pool created by Tata SCIP. Other companies such as Nokia have recruited women from this program, as have some NGOs and charitable organizations. Some have turned entrepreneurs and a few are on teaching assignments at various institutes.

For some, the best bet for future employment is to stay connected to a former employer. One example: The Price water house coopers Full Circle program. The idea behind the Full Circle initiative is to maintain close connection with certain groups of top performers who separate from PWC, but would consider re-joining in the future. It is a voluntary, unpaid arrangement with incentives between the firm and separating staff for a period lasting no more than five years. Participants are given a good faith agreement for job placement upon their return to the firm. They are also assigned a coach and have access to other incentives such as select work life programs, technical training and reimbursement for annual licensing and credentialing to ensure they are well positioned to re-enter the workforce upon their return. Candidates are not allowed to seek other full time employment and must fully intend on returning to the firm within five years. Replacement costs of very high skilled employees at manager level and above could range anywhere between 2.5 times to 4 times the annual salary. This does not reflect impact on average knowledge/intelligent quotient of the workplace diminishing. In view of the above, firms come up with creative ways and means of encouraging employees to manage their personal priorities / needs including raising family, marriage / health requirements, further studies etc. in different phases of their lives and still be connected and return back based on comfort levels.

Organizations need to pay attention to some important factors to attract talent that have taken career breaks. These are work content, work culture and programs to bridge the skills and confidence that such talent may have lost out during their career break. In cases of new mothers, it is important to have facilities such as lactation rooms, relaxation rooms and day care facility. It is important that returning employees look at their job content thoroughly and ask themselves if they are equipped with the right skills to join work. An initiative like this needs certain key elements that make it work: projects that utilize their potential to the maximum and give them a feeling of having made a significant contribution, mindsets and attitudes of seniors and co-workers towards the flexi time work module, logistical issues such as flexibility in terms of timings, work from home options etc need to be factored.

Today, progressive organizations understand that as the war for talent heat up, investment in the re-entry of talented people in to the workforce, will be a competitive advantage in the long run.