On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Addie on from reacHIRE about creating returnship programs for women re-entering the workforce.

Some Conversation Highlights:

If you think about it, we have all this technology now, applicant tracking systems to make things more efficient and companies have recruiting teams that are set up to fill jobs quickly and to look at certain skill sets, managers are looking for specific pointed skillsets when they’re interviewing folks re-entering the workforce.

So what that means is that somebody who’s a little bit of a different candidate, re-entering the workforce, but can’t get through a system like that. Having a career break is one thing. Having older skills, if you’ve been out of the workforce, even three years, some of the technologies are different than they were and you just need to get back in the saddle again.

So our systems that our corporations rely on do not make it easy to have people come back and we’re missing a huge proportion of talented individuals because they’re just not able to get back on and not in a way that leverages their skills, allows them to grow and learn and thinks about people and candidates more holistically as opposed to filling specific job racks, re-entering the workforce.

Tune in for the full conversation.

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Listening time: 30 minutes


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Addie Swartz

A serial entrepreneur, Addie created reacHIRE to build a systematic pathway for exceptional women to get back into the workforce. Prior to reacHIRE, she founded two companies at the intersection of media, technology and education


Music: This is Recruiting Daily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup

William Tincup: Ladies to jump to it’s William Tincup and you’re listening to The RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Addie on from reacHIRE, we’ll be talking about our topic today is fantastic, creating returnship programs for women reentering the workforce. That’s probably something we could have been talking about for the last a hundred years. But we’re talking about it now, which is wonderful. So Addie, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and reacHIRE?

Addie Swartz: Sure. So my name is Addie Swartz and I am the CEO and founder of reacHIRE. And what we do is we work with companies and diversified talent pool, mostly women, and some men to help corporations bring women and men back into the workplace after they’ve taken time off.

William Tincup: What’s the common for, first, that’s fantastic, by the way, what’s the common reason I would guess for women it’s paternity or maternity leave, but I might be wrong about that, but what would it be for men?

Addie Swartz: There are lots of stay at home fathers now-

William Tincup: Yeah good point.

Addie Swartz: -and also people take breaks for all kinds of reasons. I think that what we’ve learned with the pandemic is that when life happens, you respond and nothing is a straight line. So there are many more people. And as you intonated, when we started, this is a topic that’s been around for a long time, not only caring for children, but caring for elderly parents, having a health issue, maybe going off on a mission, because you’re passionate about something that you want to make a dent in and have an impact on and get off the grid for a while. So many reasons why people take time off, should that be a detriment to their being able to come back on and contribute to an organization. And is there a loss to that organization for not taking advantage of people with different kinds of experiences that can add to the overall enriched fabric of the organization?

William Tincup: Yeah. And again, the punishment we shouldn’t punish people for taking breaks or wanting to take breaks for that matter. And it should be easy, especially if they’re reentering one would assume that they have some skills or if they don’t, we can obviously train them up and get them skilled. So should be rather easy. But I can see where especially years ago when people would grade resumes incorrectly, but they would grade resumes with gaps harshly, “Oh, you’ve been out of the workforce or you there’s this gap from 2010 to 2013, what was going on?” It’s like, “Well, I took time off.”

Addie Swartz: Exactly, exactly. If you think about it, we have all this technology now, applicant tracking systems to make things more efficient and companies have recruiting teams that are set up to fill jobs quickly and to look at certain skill sets, managers are looking for specific pointed skillsets when they’re interviewing folks. So what that means is that somebody who’s a little bit of a different candidate, can’t get through a system like that. Having a career break is one thing. Having older skills, if you’ve been out of the workforce, even three years, some of the technologies are different than they were and you just need to get back in the saddle again. So our systems that our corporations rely on do not make it easy to have people come back and we’re missing a huge proportion of talented individuals because they’re just not able to get back on and not in a way that leverages their skills, allows them to grow and learn and thinks about people and candidates more holistically as opposed to filling specific job racks.

William Tincup: And it’s silly. So let’s just call it what it is. It’s silly that they didn’t learn those skills before. So let’s take some technology advancements if someone’s been out of the workplace for maybe the last year or so, maybe they’ve lost the ability to understand how to recruit from TikTok. Let’s say just makes something really dumb, but you know what, prior to that, they learned how to recruit from Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or YouTube. Okay. So like, okay. Yes, it’s different, fair, stated and covered. But they learned before with a little bit of training and a little bit of learning they’re they can learn something new. It’s just preposterous to me to think. I know what y’all are facing. I know what the candidates are facing. They’re facing this hiring managers dream candidate.

I talked to a woman yesterday, she’s a VP of talent acquisition at so [inaudible 00:05:38]. And we were talking about mitigating [inaudible 00:05:41] bias. And she said, “The hardest thing was reorganizing and rewiring. The hiring managers,” was it recruiters and sources as much as it was rewiring hiring managers to start looking for, do they have the skills? The skills being, the innate skills or transferable skills and or some of the missing skills that they could easily train for. And do they have these things, do they have potentiality, which I thought was fantastic. And I love the way that she wove that into the conversation she goes, “And it was hard. It was actually hard to get them on board because they had this little dream list of, okay, I wanted to go to Harvard and work for NASA and have a PhD, all the norm.”

Addie Swartz: Super human candidates.

William Tincup: Yeah. Yeah. There’s only three of them in the world. Two of them are dead. But that’s what they face and I really found it fascinating. Do you see some of the same things both with hiring managers and the rewiring of their expectations and also a hint of maybe hiring people for potentiality, not necessarily what they’ve done in the recent future or past, excuse me.

Addie Swartz: Yeah. So you’re hitting on so many important hot buttons. So you’re dead on that. I feel that it’s still hard if you’re hiring manager and you have a wreck it’s because you figured out six months ago that you needed help and you just got to the point where you actually have a wreck now and can hire someone. And then given the stresses and strains and tight labor market, it’s even more challenging. But you have in your mind, a certain set of skills, you don’t have a lot of time and you’re relying on your recruiting team, your talent acquisition team to bring you candidates that fit those needs. So I do think that so much has to change as we are in a very tight job market. We have to look at candidates differently at reacHIRE.

We do that every day because we’re working with professionals that have been out for not just two years, but five years, 10 years, 19 years. And so we have to think about, does this person have a growth mindset? And you know, when you’re thinking about things, programmatically, and you’re looking at candidates as a program, not an immediate hire, there’s less pressure on the candidate. There’s less pressure on the manager except for he still wants to get the job done, but it does offer a unique opportunity for a company to look at candidates. They would not other look at because they really are maybe 75% qualified for those jobs, but not a hundred percent. And by providing the on-ramp that we do through cohorts, it really provides the manager and the individual and the company, the opportunity for growth to happen and that person to get up to a hundred percent skills.

So I do think that the current system that’s set up that companies have make it harder to look at candidates that are outside the box, but we all have to look at candidates outside the box because there aren’t that many candidates. So we have to look differently and this new millennials and gen Zs group that we have, they’re fortitude for staying in a company for three years or four years is less. They’re growing, they’re changing and they’re looking for different things. And so as you look at what we call returners that are grateful for opportunities and can grow and thrive with companies that are open minded and not biased on age or background or coming from a different industry even, and are willing to try something that they might not have tried before. That’s where we’re going to get the growth and the opportunity. And that’s why I think it’s so important that we think more holistically about candidate pools and just think differently and provide opportunity.

William Tincup: So dumb question alert you and I both take off five years, same job. Yeah. Whatever it is, same job, same expertise, same background, all of those things, similar we’re Twinkies, but we both take off the exact same five years. I’m assuming it’s harder for women than it is for men, but I don’t want to make that mistake. What do you see for two like candidates it that took off the exact same time what’s similar or different about their experiences coming back to work?

Addie Swartz: I think it might depend on where you live and what industry you’re in some industries like expertise and deep expertise. And if there’s a break, like financial services tends to be a little more forgiving than technology, if you’re in Silicon Valley, I think it’s pretty hard if you’re a man or a woman.

William Tincup: Yeah. Good point.

Addie Swartz: Beyond the age of 30. But I do think women specifically and historically, because it has been so weighted towards women taking time off to either for personal reasons, for family care or other. And economically with the wage gap. If you have had a more traditional partnership your spouse might be making more money. And so the choice might have been that you stay home because your spouse was making more money. So it’s complex. But I do think that women have born the brunt of it. And there’re more women that are on the sidelines. And with the pandemic, there are millions of women that were forced to take time off because their safety nets, even as working women were cut.

William Tincup: Right.

Addie Swartz: Daycare, childcare school, all the things that they would rely on so that they could work were gone. So I think that women have born the brunt of it more than men.

William Tincup: It’s interesting. I say it’s interesting. It’s appalling actually, but after the year, the one of the pandemic had been, that December. If I remember the stats correctly, there’s disproportionately women that were laid off. So I think it was that December of ’20 where a million people were getting laid off. Will say disproportionately 80% of it was women and disproportionately within that number was women of color. And which just it’s see it flies in the face of everything we hear about in terms of diversity and inclusion, and one side of our [inaudible 00:13:08] would say, this is important to us. And then literally you have the time to act and yeah, things were chaotic. I get it. And we were all scared. Okay. Totally understood. But why would it be disproportionally impacting one group of people and really one group, a subgroup of that is just appalling to me. First of all, did you see or read all the same things that I did around that?

Addie Swartz: Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. It was 2 million, it went up to 4 million, it went down to 1 million. It’s been all over the place and the number of women that have been disproportionately displaced and then you have to look at the sectors that the women are in as well, but really across the board. We see so many professional women who never took time off who just suddenly raised their hands and said, “I give up, I need a break. “I have always said a career break, shouldn’t be a career breaker and we can’t be biased. And I think the pandemic has just put this front and center all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons that are highly qualified have had to take time off. And how do we on ramp them back into the workforce?

And what is that a good thing to do for a company? And why is that good? You spoke about potentiality. That has been my mantra for three companies in three decades. I’ve committed my career to women, girls, empowerment and reaching your potential. And we need to do more this next generation of both women and men, they’re looking for opportunities to be the best they can. And they’re not going to just punch a clock and be at a company for 25, 30 years and then wait for their, their little watch. So-

William Tincup: That’s [crosstalk 00:15:13].

Addie Swartz: We need to think about people differently and the life cycle of employees differently.

William Tincup: I think that’s actually one of the things that millennials and gen Z has really helped us with is both on the job hopping side, what we would’ve historically called job hopping, where people move more frequently than not. And also on the just, “I’m not going to work,” “I’m not going to do this.” And then just the ability just to quit and not take it. I think that’s actually helped all of us. Those two things alone have helped us. Now it’s again, it’s rewiring hiring managers and leaders and recruiters and sources to look at talent, look at talent that maybe has been out.

Maybe all for good reason or all for whatever reason they want it to be. They’ve been out of the workforce and they want to come back and they want to add value. How can we unlock that talent pool? Question that obviously the audience will ask is, “Okay, smarty pants, how do we…” And they’re talking to me when they say something like that, “How do we do this?” What’s our first step if this is something that’s really important to us, we see it, we understand it. Now we want to rewire our biases and we want to attract this group of people.

Addie Swartz: Well, I think it’s tricky because what you need to do is look at, do you have incentives for time to fill? And if that’s an issue, then you have to look at that. But you also have to look at, it’s not just about filling a job. It’s about how long the person will stay. And if you have the systems, the culture, the environment to provide that support. And the first thing to do is to open up the aperture and not necessarily be so specific in your job description. When we work with our companies, we actually revamp the job descriptions to be more broad in scope and not so specific and narrow in deliverables, so that different kinds of candidates can be even thought about.

So that’s a first step, like, “Are your job descriptions broad enough?” I’m not talking about bias towards men or women, but really just, do you have to have every single thing on there? Do you have to have 80% of everything we found that, your topic of potentiality, people have so much potential. They just have to be given the opportunity, the space and the support. So I think that broadening those job descriptions, number one, number two, I think it’s not just about bringing somebody back, but depending on how long you’ve been out, and if you’ve been out a year or two with the pandemic, you’re going to go right back in. You have your networks, you have your skills, and that’s not a problem. But if you’ve been out for four years, seven years, nine years or more, you might not have your network.

You might not even want to be in the industry you are in. And so looking at this pool of potential talent differently, and bringing people back in groups is more powerful, because people are together, they’re on the journey back together and they’re supporting each other. So I would say that, be open-minded think about broadening your job descriptions, maybe doing some education. We educate our managers for our programs. So they understand that this candidate that they are going to be getting for a six month, what we call returnship is going to be on ramping and they are not going to have all the skills on day one, but by the end of the six months, they will. And it’s so impressive and powerful to see the skills that individuals collect along the way when they’re doing on the job training.

And most jobs you do learn on the job. But I think that the other thing too, that it’s not just about how do we create the aperture for bringing the people in, and it’s good for the people, but is it good for the company? And I feel that returnship programs bring out the heart in companies because managers, especially with COVID, it reinvigorates their feeling about the organization and this offers hope, and possibility with somebody that might have been sidelined because of the pandemic might have been finalized for the last 10 years and needs to get back to work, to get a paycheck and pay for their family and their obligations. And it also creates a really great sense of belonging. So it’s more than just opening up the aperture and thinking differently about a candidate it’s about providing the environment and building the community and almost the employer brand around inclusion, diversity, acceptance, and potential like you were saying.

William Tincup: Yeah. And you’re so much nicer than I am because some of this is also it’s stop looking for the perfect candidate. Just this idea that there is such a thing. The job description represents a perfect candidate. A perfect fit, it’s a myth. It’s been a myth. It’s always been a myth and it’ll continue to be a myth until we just bust it apart. I love that you went to belonging and inclusion, because I was going to ask you about that next. And again, a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion and belonging, equity equality. This is an actually, this is a wonderful way for you to actually stop talking about these things and actually do something about it. So I love that you talked and talked, took us into that. I wanted to ask you a question about kind of learning and what we traditional and HR have thought of as learning and development, training, and development, et cetera, and how maybe we need to push that.

Especially with these returnship candidates. Maybe we need to push learning and development closer to the frontline. Once we know we have a really good candidate, their values are synced. They understand what we do. They want to work with us and they need to learn some things.

Addie Swartz: Okay.

William Tincup: Well, technically every employee needs to learn things. So not new, not news at 11, but what’s your take on just pushing learning and development closer, especially with this group of people so that it’s woven into so we can get them comfortable and valuable and adding value quicker by again, even if they’ve been out of the workforce for nine years, they still have skills. They still have things, they all have values. They still have things that are important to us. And yeah, we need to train them on some new things. Okay, [crosstalk 00:23:13].

Addie Swartz: I think you’re dead on, on that. In fact, that’s how the cohort programs that we run work. So once you get selected for the returnship, you come in with a group of people into the same organization and you get training right from the start. So the first week or two, you are embedded with your cohort and together you’re on a journey to refresh your skills, learn more about the organization and connect with the industry.

And then throughout the six month program, there are opportunities to continue to learn. So learning and development is front and center. I think it’s front and center for all different groups. We all know cohort models work, and that people feel a sense of belonging together. We actually have a tool that we designed a digital tool called Aurora that powers our returnship programs and has had so much impact on sense of belonging and connection and connectivity with our return program that we have begun to offer it to companies for their people, their women, specifically, to help them build sense of belonging and connection and learning and development too.

And so I feel like you can’t talk about talent acquisition without thinking about engagement and retention. And otherwise, all you do is you’re an open door and just a revolving door and you keep like filling jobs and people leaving and filling jobs and people leaving. And of course, you’re always going to have some of that, but the key is how do you bring a person into an organization, have them not only survive, but thrive and contribute in a way that makes them feel that they belong and that they can have an impact.

William Tincup: Well, I can’t help, but think that folks have been out of the workforce, again, let’s go longer number 15, 20 years. And they return to the workforce, they go into a cohort, they feel like they’re a part of something. They’ve got companies invested, time, money, and energy training development, all these things into them. I can’t help, but think that they’re a bit more loyal now. And again, no slight that isn’t no sliding millennials or gen Z or hell myself for that matter in terms of people that want to move around a little bit, but it just can’t help but think that, that group of people would be more loyal to the company and to [crosstalk 00:25:56].

Addie Swartz: You are so right. In fact, in our programs, 93% of the people that we bring through our programs are at the organizations three years later. And some of the first people that we put back into companies are there and their seventh, eighth, and ninth years. So it’s super amazing. The individuals are grateful. They are so committed to making a difference and showing that they can do it and contribute to the organizations in different ways. In addition to just their job through the ERG is through the women in tech groups through the art collection and doing all kinds of extra pro bono work. So they’re really contributing to the overall culture of the company. And imagine the power that an organization can show up, demonstrating that all people at all walks of life at all stages can contribute meaningfully to an organization.

William Tincup: Can and do. It drops mic walks off stage. Thank you so much, Addie. I appreciate your wisdom, love what y’all are doing. And I love this, just the topic because it’s different and it’s needed. And I just appreciate you.

Addie Swartz: Thank you so much. I really appreciated our time together today.

William Tincup: Vice versa. And thanks for everyone listening to The RecruitingDaily Podcast until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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