Re-entry Programs Target Professional Women

In an effort to reach experienced professionals, primarily women who leave their positions for extended periods for personal reasons, and support their return to their careers, business schools and professional firms have initiated programs targeted to their needs. Business schools are offering these programs within their executive education departments, the Wall Street Journal says. Courses at Harvard’s Business School and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business include updates on finance and accounting, as well as changes in business technology.

Firms like Deloitte & Touche and Lehman Brothers are focused on reaching out to former employees and providing future support for employees who decide to leave for personal reasons.

Beginning in the fall, Tuck will offer an 11-day program called “Back in Business: Invest in your Return,” which is partially funded by Citigroup, a company that hopes to recruit from the program, the Journal says. Babson College in Massachusetts will initiate a four half-days program called “Act 2.”

Personal Pursuits, launched by Deloitte & Touche last fall, allows senior-level professionals up to a five-year sabbatical for child rearing, elder care and travel, while providing them with resources, including training, mentoring, career coaching, networking events and ad hoc work assignments, according to Shaun Budnik, Deloitte’s national director for the retention and advancement of women, the Stamford Advocate reports.

“We know we have people we don’t want to lose touch with,” Budnik said. “The cost of rehiring and retraining is so much higher than just keeping in touch with them.”

Deloitte estimates that replacing an employee costs at least twice that person’s salary, while the cost of the Personal Pursuits programs is $2,500 per employee.

Christine Popson, one of the 28 participants in the first year of the program at Deloitte, was about to have a second child but after eight years with the firm was reluctant to leave her senior manager position. “I spent all this time developing my clients, my relationships at work, myself,” she told the Advocate. “I didn’t know what the right decision was going to be: Should I work full time? If I left, how would I stay current?”

Popson enrolled in the Personal Pursuits program and expects to take three years off. Through the program, she can stay connected with technology, a personal concern, and with her co-workers, the Advocate says.

Lehman Brothers’ Encore Program is directed toward men and women who have left the workforce and are interested in resuming their careers in financial services. After a kick-off event in New York in November, attended by former Lehman employees, as well as employees of other financial services firms, individuals applied for and were hired for multiple full-time and flexible schedule position, Lehman Brothers’ Web site says.

Providing contact and training to workers on sabbatical benefits employers because returning workers have greater commitment and loyalty to their companies, said Aimee Horowitz, senior associate at Catalyst, a business consulting firm, the Advocate reports. It also makes transition much easier. Men also seek flexibility at work, Horowitz says.

For Deloitte, the Personal Pursuits is a learning process, Budnik says. “We don’t have the history yet to figure out how many people will come back, she told the Advocate.

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