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January 11th, 2024 · 6 min read

What is a returnship? Fast facts for HR leaders

What is a returnship program?


How do returnships work?

  • A minimum amount of training and experience in the specific position
  • A minimum number of time off of work
  • Critical skills or understanding in the position or field

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Benefits of returnship programs

For employees

  • Opportunity to reenter the workforce without needing to start from scratch in an entry-level role
  • Access to resources that offer career guidance and support skill-building
  • Potential for full-time employment following successful completion of a returnship program
  • Job-relevant experience
  • Transitional pay and benefits
  • Ability to explore career interests across different areas of the business

For employers

  • Access to an experienced, skilled talent pool
  • Reskilling talent to fill job openings 
  • Reducing hiring risks by having the opportunity to consider returnship performance before extending an offer
  • Foster engagement by highlighting your commitment to supporting employees with non-traditional career paths

Companies that offer returnship programs

  1. Amazon
    The retail giant offers a longer 16-week returnship largely aimed towards work-from-home positions. Offering benefits to returnship participants and a clear pathway towards employment following completion of the program, Amazon includes practical project development, classroom training and one-on-one mentorships as critical aspects of its offering.
  2. PayPal
    PayPal’s returnship program is specifically designed for women returning to work. The company offers either a 16-week paid training program or a special skills boot camp that focuses on building new and relevant skills for experienced workers.
  3. Goldman Sachs
    This is a uniquely in-person program offered at a few of the many nationwide company offices. The application opens once annually, allowing candidates to submit themselves for a 6-month-long paid program that involves advanced job training and peer networking. 

Tips for building a returnship program

  1. Get clear on your objectives
    As with any new people initiative, it’s imperative to start by defining clear objectives for your program. This should include high-level business objectives such as filling job vacancies, boosting employee engagement and accelerating workplace DEI.
  2. Milestones for participant success
    There should be clear criteria for individual progression and success within the program. This can include outlining specific skills and competencies that need to be developed or training milestones that should be achieved. It’s also important to strategize and document what qualifies a returnship program participant to be considered for a full-time offer.
  3. Implement program content and other resources
    Nailing down objectives and criteria for success will help you to take the next step — identifying the appropriate training, education and mentorship resources needed for your returnship program. No two job functions are the same, so it’s important to offer a range of learning opportunities that span the needs of all the roles and varying levels of experience that you’re targeting.
  4. Don’t overlook continuous skills development
    For the people who secure a full-time position, it’s critical to also consider what happens after the returnship. Learning shouldn’t stop. Ensure they have access to L&D opportunities that enable them to continue their learning journey and set them up for long-term success with your company. This can include accessible training, upskilling/reskilling resources, access to certification or degree programs, and support through mentorship.

Investing in returnships is a win-win

You can address talent development challenges