Is returning talent the answer to improving diversity?

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Returning talent is an underused and untapped resource that many organizations are missing out on – at least that’s according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML), which has long supported people who’ve been out of work for a significant length of time.

“We know that people who have been out of work for a length of time often feel overlooked, that quite often, potential employers cannot see ‘beyond the gap’ and take the time to review candidates’ previous, and often very extensive, experience,” says Natasha San Juan, head of EMEA infrastructure staffing at BoAML.

“This stigma around the returner profile will often leave people suffering from a lack of confidence, so through our program, we seek to recognise this huge range of talented people,” she added.

Now entering its fifth year, the UK-based Returning Talent flagship program focuses on rediscovering and articulating participants’ skills.

“Returning Talent helps participants mentally prepare for a return to work and supports them in building career resilience,” reveals San Juan, adding that the program also offers practical elements such as learning interview techniques and using social media platforms.

“For many it is often as simple as re-establishing their networks, which then often creates the opportunities,” she adds.

According to San Juan, many participants go on to set up LinkedIn groups and meet up with program alumni for coffee or lunch to talk about their experiences and share tips.

“In the spirit of support and encouragement, they actively help each other find roles,” she adds.

Whilst not all programme participants decide to return to work, over the past four years more than 100 people have taken part in the programme and over 50 per cent of the 2015 class went on to secure a job.

But the initiative isn’t just benefitting potential employees who want a step up back onto the corporate ladder – according to San Juan, a diversified pool of talent will secure future success for organizations.

“Workplace diversity is key to business growth and success,” she stressed. “The benefits of building a workforce of diverse talent who are empowered to positively contribute to a company’s success are numerous – from better financial performance and more innovative problem-solving to effective employee retention and greater customer or client appeal.

“The companies that will thrive in the future are those that meet the needs of their community, not just for the sake of being profitable, but in creating a culture which supports a rewarding work environment,” she added.

“It is by being a place where people want to work, that companies both attract and retain the best talent. It is also important for companies of all sizes to focus on the challenges of responsible business practices, advancing opportunities in local communities through education and employability programmes such as Returning Talent.”

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