Why focus on returners - The Deloitte experience

February 28, 2023

Supporting individuals to successfully re-join the workforce following a career break

At Deloitte, their purpose is to make an impact that matters for their people, their clients, their communities, and the planet. This sense of purpose inspires them to work to the highest standards and tackle the biggest challenges. Deloitte pride themselves on being an organisation with a genuinely inclusive environment with equal opportunities for all at every stage of the employee lifecycle, such as recruitment, progression, exposure, and everything in between.

The diversity of their workforce is growing. Their ambition is for everyone at Deloitte to feel comfortable being themselves at work, safe in the knowledge they have the same opportunities to develop and succeed based on the value they bring as individuals. This is at the heart of inclusion in Deloitte Ireland, and it allows them to attract and retain talented people from a range of backgrounds, experiences, and cultures.

Why focus on returners?

Individuals who have taken a significant career break can fall through the cracks of many recruitment processes because they are usually designed to prioritise recent work experience and may not consider the valuable skills and knowledge that these individuals can bring even after a career break. They noticed a gap in the talent coming through the doors, and the doors of many other organisations and an opportunity to address it by supporting individuals to re-enter the workforce and rebuild their careers after a prolonged absence.

Speaking to the CEO and Co-Founder of Women Returners, Julianne Miles shared that, "there is a pressing need in Ireland to lower the personal and recruitment barriers which prevent skilled and experienced professionals who have taken long career breaks from returning to the workforce. The career break penalty creates a neglected talent pool which could fill skills gaps and increase diversity in the Irish workforce”.

It was recognised that tapping into a talent pool of skilled workers who may have valuable experience and knowledge can bring many benefits to Deloitte and supports the commitment to make an impact that matters to society. It was further recognised that bringing talented people who have been out of the workforce for an extended period helps address skills shortages and workforce gaps, as well as promoting a positive workplace culture, diversity and inclusion, well-being, and contributing to the overall economic growth and development of the community.

The Deloitte Ireland Return to Work programme

In May 2022, Deloitte Ireland piloted their first Return to Work programme, in partnership with Women Returners. Eight individuals who had career breaks of 18+ months (some of 10+ years) joined through the structured and supportive 6-month programme in roles across their business.

All the returners joined on the same date and were welcomed with a bespoke induction and the opportunity to connect as a cohort. Women Returners provide group coaching workshops from day one right through to the end of the programme, supporting the returners to successfully return to work and make that major life adjustment. The returners also received regular new joiner supports, such as an internal career coach, a buddy for day-to-day supports and learning opportunities, as well as additional specific programme supports such as a programme manager from the People & Purpose team and cohort connection opportunities for peer support.

The Return to Work programme is offered with full-time, part-time, or reduced working week arrangements, allowing returners to re-join the workforce and thrive, while maintaining a positive work-life balance. The hybrid working policy, Deloitte Works, which is built on trust, supports the flexibility that returners often need for their return to be successful.

Deloitte Ireland are delighted to share that following the pilot programme were in a position to offer 75% of the returners opportunities to continue their journey with Deloitte after their initial 6-month placement, with 100% of offers accepted.

Why offer a returner programme?

Because in addition to the benefits listed above, Deloitte have found that returners bring an amazing passion, are refreshed, and ready to make an impact in the workplace, and give back to the community. They have generally grown a set of extremely relevant skills during their time out, such as project management, communication skills, resilience, amongst others, depending on what their career break entailed.

The Deloitte Return to Work Programme is a key lever in achieving their gender balance ambition, with most candidates being women. The programme also attracted a culturally diverse group of individuals who have had interesting life experiences, which brought diversity of thought through the doors.

Deloitte have found the returner talent pool to be a largely untapped talent pool in Ireland, so encourage other organisations to consider offering a similar programme.

Antona Davy, one of the returners who joined as a Senior in Risk Advisory shares her experience after a 6-year career break.

“When my daughter started school I wanted to get back into the workplace. I applied for jobs that were comparable to the one I had left, but never received replies. I tried lower-level positions since I was out of the market for over 6 years, but still nothing. Then I applied for roles traditionally filled by people fresh out of school, and many other positions for the next two years — still nothing! My confidence took a huge knock.”

“Then someone told me about a programme that was specifically geared towards people who want to return to the workplace — and I found out it was with Deloitte Ireland.”

Antona reflects on her interview experience;

“Because I’d had so many knock-backs, I didn’t think it would happen, so it was a nerve-wracking experience. I knew this would be a life-changing opportunity for me and my family, so I put a picture of my kids on the desk in front of me and told myself: ‘This is for me — and them. Whatever happens, just do your best. Then I got an interview and was offered a position – I couldn’t have been happier.’”

“The programme has given me the chance to get back into the work environment, which can be scary, particularly for those who had time away to raise a family. It taught me to focus on my strengths, deal with imposter syndrome, juggle work-life balance and use technology that was new to me. My ‘buddy’ was there to help with day-to-day practical issues and a mentor to help with my professional development.”

Antona, like most of our 2022 programme participants, was offered the opportunity to continue her career with Deloitte. “It’s given me financial independence and been a huge boost to my confidence. It’s something I’ll always be grateful for, and I look forward to keep growing with Deloitte.”

2023 Return to Work programme - applications now open

Deloitte Ireland are excited to share that the applications are now open for the 2023 Return to Work programme. They are expanding the number of returners joining this year and are excited to be part of the return to work journey.

Anyone interested (who has had a career break of 18+ months and has the right to work in Ireland) should check out the website and apply – even if they don’t feel like they meet all the criteria, as Deloitte are there to provide applicants with the resources and support they need to succeed. Deloitte are asking others to consider this opportunity to welcome people back to the workforce so they can rebuild their careers, promoting diversity and inclusion, and contributing to economic growth!

Zoe Briggs

Inclusion Lead, Manager

Deloitte Ireland