Returnship 2017 – Employers, Join the Revolution!

The 2017 Back2businessship returnship programme is now open for applications helping media, marketing or communications professionals, who have taken time out to raise a family, back into the workplace. Talented individuals considering their options should learn more here, BUT, I am also making am impassioned plea to would-be employers to join the revolution and offer a paid placement.

I recall very clearly when Golin MD Bibi Hilton and I met the course delegates in 2015. It was only days before we were due to deliver some training ourselves and we were both blown away by the calibre of the 22 women in front of us. My other clear recollection was what a travesty is would be if this collective talent pool were unable to re-insert themselves into the UK economy. So my first key message to would-be employers is don’t underestimate the quality and experience of this group.

Laura Weston took up our first returner placement in Q1 of 2016. With a background in journalism and digital content but no experience of comms agencies it was a bit of a leap for her to come to us. However, we were very much sold on her drive, intelligence and passion. We were interested in extra support for our marketing function, with a focus on growing our content capabilities and raising the profile of our digital business; I like to think of it as a Venn diagram of need and experience. Faced with a significant learning curve and in her first agency role ever, she made an immediate impact and proved her value so effectively that we took her on as our permanent marketing director in April 2016. This year we took on two placement candidates.

What has worked really well, as demonstrated by 2016 returner Jane Bateman (with us Jan-Mar this year), was that a well-defined, discreet project makes an excellent basis for a three-month placement. We hired Jane to support a business development project for our corporate team precisely because she has never worked agency-side before and was able to approach the work from a client’s perspective (another example of this talent pool enabling us to access a different, but very relevant, skillset to that which usually fills our pipeline).

We also identified Jacqui Sanders as a phenomenal talent and we were keen to give her exposure to the agency-world again. Although we were unable to offer a full three-month programme in our healthcare team, we took her on for a biz dev project for two weeks. It was incredible the impact she had in just ten working days and she is now in a permanent, senior role in another stellar agency.

Outside of the direct benefits of their work with us, there is a noticeable halo effect of having such talent in the business bringing wisdom, maturity and experience to our young, fast-moving industry.

In order for the placement to be mutually successful, I’d advise careful job design planning – thinking about what will give both parties best chance of success. It is also important to get senior buy-in to support these placements and that all parties who will engage with this role are appropriately briefed on who they are and what to expect.

To make a real success of this opportunity, employers should expect to devote a good deal of time upfront to thorough line management, briefing, objective setting and coaching. In return, you’ll get someone with a lot to prove, hugely committed to the success of your business with maturity and something different to offer. You will also benefit from having a try before you buy period IF there is opportunity for a permanent role at the end of the placement. A final and very powerful consideration is that these individuals will serve as excellent ambassadors for your business. You have nothing to loss and lots to gain!