A guide to creating a supported returner program

The information in this section is to assist you in designing, developing, and implementing your supported returner program.

On this page:

It includes examples, templates, tips and techniques that have been successfully employed by businesses who have implemented supported returner programs.

While tools have been designed to be adaptable across a wide range of contexts and sectors, not all tools will be relevant for your business or program. Users are encouraged to use their discretion, and therefore tailor, adapt and discard based on their business or program needs.

Tools are organised into sections, linked to this map which provides a high-level overview of the stages of developing the returner program.

1.   Returner readiness assessment

Before you delve into the design and detail of your supported returner program, it is useful to consider whether your business is really ‘Returner Ready’. Are your organisational levers (leaders, culture, policies and supporting infrastructure) aligned to facilitate a program or are your efforts best served building maturity or health in other business areas?

Use the returner readiness assessment to map your business’ current state against foundational factors, attraction and recruitment factors and retention of women factors.

2.   Strategic drivers

Supported returner programs offer clear benefits for both the business and the returner. Before designing your program, it is important to have a clear vision of the program you would like to develop, what you would like to achieve and the benefits for both the business and individual. Your guiding coalition can help you understand where opportunities lie, test the appetite for the program within your organisation, and engage critical stakeholders in the business case and vision setting.

Use the strategic drivers resource to set clear objectives, refine your program vision and put together a business case for implementing a supported returner program.

3.   Your guiding coalition

If you are introducing a supported returner program, consider your guiding coalition –individuals who will provide advice and input as you develop and implement the program. Managers will be critical enablers, supporting you to identify gaps in your business. This will help you plan for the size of your returner cohort and the skills they bring and identify training requirements.

Use the guiding coalition resource to create your network map.

4.   Developing a supported returner program

The supported returner program framework will start to emerge in parallel to these activities, with each stage helping you to frame up structural elements of the program.

Use the developing a supported returner program resource  to consider the programs principles and structural elements.

5.   Communication and internal positioning

Securing buy-in from other parts of the business will be crucial to the success of the program. Help people across your business understand the rationale and benefits of a supported returner program. Engage them in solving the problem, expose them to returner stories, and encourage social accountability for change. Advocates and allies in your business will be critical in supporting you to mobilise teams and create energy for the program.

Use the communication and internal positioning resource to engage employees in the program.

6.   Attracting returners

A returner is not a typical job seeker and may require tailored recruitment approaches. Look to advertise roles in traditional and non-traditional domains, including networks of returners, parent-focused online forums, and social media. This may also involve adapted recruitment messages, including the use of personalised messaging and an increased focus on personal attributes and genuinely essential criteria.

Use the attracting returners resource to identify principles to guide your approach, view examples of returner advertisements, and explain diverse ways your business can recruit talent.

7.   Interview and assessment

The assessment process must be relevant and comfortable for the candidate while also enabling the business to determine fit. The focus of the interview should be on creating a relaxed and friendly environment for individuals whose confidence may be low. Interviewers should consider the values and behaviours of candidates, as well as determining technical knowledge and experience. The goal should be to unearth the transferable skills and experiences from both the working and personal lives of the candidate. A successful process will ensure that the candidate thoroughly understands the shape of the program on offer so they can make an informed decision.

Use the interview and assessment resource to select the right people for the job using a strengths-based assessment.

8.   The returner journey

While induction programs often begin the day the employee commences at a business, best practice suggests that this process begins as soon as the returner is offered and accepts the job. Consider the supports that may be required before the first date of employment and identify the training needs ahead of time, to help returners deliver in their new roles as quickly as possible.

Use the returner journey map to step inside the shoes of the returner and see the experience from their perspective.

9.   Supportive ecosystems

Aiding a sense of belonging is a critical success factor for individuals returning to work. Providing a robust support framework that assists returners to form relationships and build networks will likely help maximise returner satisfaction and lead to a more successful and permanent hire.

Use the supportive ecosystems resource to identify technical and social supports for your supported returner program.

10. Evaluate and adjust

It is useful to consider the supported returner program as a process that is always evolving. With that mindset, program managers should regularly collect qualitative and quantitative feedback from both returners, their managers, and other team members about their experiences of the program and improvement opportunities. Feedback should aid adaptation and further development of the program.

Use the evaluate and adjust resource to evaluate your supported returner program.

11. Embed

Once you have successfully implemented a returner program, you will be well placed to build your learnings into your ongoing talent strategy. Many of the learnings from running a returner program can be disseminated more broadly across your business to foster an inclusive culture and support the attraction and retention of a more diverse workforce.