4 Signs Your Business could Attract Returners


Looking to attract skilled and experienced tech professionals? Then consider opening your doors to returners – those re-entering the workforce after a career break. This talented pool offers valuable experience and a diverse perspective, but how do you ensure a business is set up to attract returners and equally, support their success? Here are four signs that a business is a magnet for tech returners. And if the signs aren’t there? Fear not, as we’ve provided recommendations on how to attract and retain that returning talent:

Recognising Transferable Skills

For businesses, valuing transferable skills and acknowledging career breaks as opportunities to uncover individuals’ full potential, makes them an ideal match for returners. Returners often possess unique “human” skills and capabilities, such as communication, presentation, negotiation, and time management, cultivated through experiences like entrepreneurship, alternative careers or caregiving, which may not be found in typical employees. Austin Sheppard, CTO, VP of Engineering at Booking.com puts it simply…

“Returners have brought an amazing wealth of real, life skills to Booking.com. Their communication, presentation, client communications, leadership skills have distinguished the Returners. These are skills you don’t learn in a classroom and often, not even on the job.”

How do we go further?

From the hiring process to training and development, there are ways that businesses can demonstrate their commitment and value for transferable skills and in turn, attract returners. Firstly, ensure that job descriptions are run through a gender decoder and focus on desired competencies and transferable skills rather than solely on specific job titles or experiences. This allows candidates with diverse backgrounds to see how their unique skills and behaviours align with the role. 

Next, dedicate part of your interview process to using behavioural questions that draw out transferable skills and potential, rather than recent experience or technical expertise. This approach allows your business to discover skills that may otherwise remain hidden. Ask yourself throughout, what potential can this person bring to your business?

Once in a role, it shouldn’t stop there. Offer training and development programmes that focus on enhancing transferable skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability. Providing opportunities for continuous learning and skill development empowers employees to strengthen their capabilities over time, plus it’s only going to make your teams stronger and more competent!

True Flexibility

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, remote or hybrid working has become a very common “flexible working arrangement” in many companies. But does your company extend beyond the basic notion of flexibility to embrace more progressive ways of working? Some individuals are returning from a career break that may have centred around a caring role – maternity leave, paternity leave or other care-giving roles – so flexibility and choice when it comes to working hours can really make a return to a career more likely. Beyond this, returners may require flexibility for other reasons such as being neurodiverse or a return to work after recovering from poor health. 

From part-time roles to ‘annualised hours’ there are many different options for a company to embrace flexible working; The reality is that businesses that truly promote and endorse this type of set up understand that a positive work-life balance not only attracts diverse talent but also enhances retention rates, benefiting your business significantly.

A great example of creative flexibility in the workplace comes from Autotrader. The business offers employees the option to be remote-first during holiday periods (e.g. July, August) making life easier to balance for many.  

How do we go further?: 

To truly be attractive to returners, consider reimagining traditional notions of work hours beyond hybrid or remote setups. Modern businesses often prioritise objectives and outcomes over strict hours, granting employees flexibility in their schedules. Options range from Flexitime, which sets “Core Hours” like 10am – 4pm, to “Compressed Hours” such as a 9-day fortnight. Alternatively, embrace an genuinely “outcome-based working model” where fixed hours are replaced by assessing outcome quality, increasing autonomy and eliminating time-wasting activities that don’t contribute to business objectives. 

Embrace Diverse Thinking

A returner-friendly business values diversity of thought and experience within teams, recognising that different perspectives lead to better outcomes, products and solutions for all. How do we know this is great for returners? Because over the last seven years, returners are some of the most diverse tech candidates we meet. From a software engineer turned helicopter pilot, to a senior Java engineer that showed resilience and adaptability on her and her son’s search for asylum in the UK. Returners are very rarely the same type of human. 

By walking the walk around diversity of thought, your brand acts as a magnet for career returners, creating an inclusive environment where their unique experiences and insights are valued. The recognition of diverse perspectives not only enriches the company’s culture but also fuels innovation and creativity, making it an appealing destination for returners seeking a supportive and dynamic workplace.  

How do we go further?: 

To strengthen commitment to diversity of thought and enhance appeal to returners, companies can offer a number of DE&I focused initiatives, but we’d recommend understanding why your business wants or needs to do this, establishing where you are now and building a realistic roadmap of milestones and expectations. Focusing on incremental steps is more realistic than getting everything right from the start.

To attract returners and other diverse talent, consider initiatives such as DE&I education, establish employee resource groups for returners, and ensure diversity in leadership positions. It’s also important to showcase varied perspectives and experiences as part of your employer brand. By highlighting the unique stories and backgrounds of employees, companies demonstrate their dedication to fostering an environment where all voices are valued and celebrated, only leading to interest from other diverse individuals.

Returning Talent, Already on Board

You may already, knowingly or not, be employing career returners who could offer valuable insights and potential mentorship opportunities. Engage with your Talent Acquisition teams and Team Leads to see what their perceptions or, ideally, their experience of employing returners is. If they’re unaware, what’s their reaction to a career break on a CV? Do they look into the break and recognise the value gained from raising a family, changing career or starting a business, or do they wear blinkers and perceive it as a gap, or a void? Understanding and embracing the former is essential to attract and retain diverse talent. Our latest hiring partner, AJ Bell, truly values the significance of career breaks. They actively encourage candidates to openly discuss their activities during these breaks, emphasising the power of that period rather than concealing such experiences.

How do we go further?:

Collaborate with team members who are returners or have experience hiring returners, to understand and promote their success stories. Take the time to highlight the skills gained during their career breaks. Or, if you’ve participated in a Returner Programme with an external partner, leverage this achievement to showcase your commitment to diversity and talent development. 

Over the years, we’ve learned that returners often know returners, which could significantly increase your reach when looking to hire experienced tech talent. Tech consultancy, Daemon exemplifies this approach by speaking publicly on how returners bring invaluable real-life skills to their team. If hiring returner talent is brand new to your company, consider exploring partnerships with established returner programmes tailored to your business needs. 

By incorporating these signs, your business can become a magnet for tech returners – a highly skilled and motivated talent pool ready to contribute their expertise and help your organisation thrive. What are you losing by trying?

Learn more about our award-winning returner programmes and how your company could be benefitting from experienced tech talent website. Or, hear the success stories from our Returners and their hiring businesses here

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