EY’s flexible approach to recruiting and retaining returning professionals

EY reconnectOpening up access to the profession helps to cultivate a diverse and inclusive culture that is a commercial imperative for EY. It helps to provide their clients with a breadth of perspectives and opinions.

EY Reconnect, an annual returnship programme, is an example of the action the firm is taking; supporting professionals back into the world of work. It’s a paid opportunity for would-be returners, offering them the chance to spend 12 weeks working on live projects within one of EY’s client-facing teams.

A flexible approach to the application process

Minaxi Arnold certainly found the firm took a flexible approach when she applied to the programme, after taking an eight year career break. Instead of inviting her to apply for a specific role, the initial application process involved general questions about her skills and experience. It was once she had been accepted onto the programme that she had a discussion with her sponsors about the best place for those skills to be put into practice.

As she explains: “I was placed in the People Advisory team, which my skills and experience transferred really well to. I was given a really meaty project to work on, in a team that really needed and valued my input. I certainly delivered, but I also learned a huge amount.”

A creative attitude to designing permanent roles

This creative approach to matching people and positions continues after the programme concludes, as Kemi Lawson found. She also took part in last year’s programme, having taken a five year career break to bring up her two daughters.  As she explains:

“Reconnect felt tailor-made for me. During my career break, the financial world had changed a great deal – there were so many new regulations for instance. The 12 week programme gave me a brilliant opportunity to catch up with the changes, boost my confidence, and get back into the workplace.”

And when the 12 weeks were up, Kemi was offered a permanent role with the firm on an annualised contract, which are becoming more common as a flexible work pattern.

Employees like Kemi who work in this way have the ability to bank additional leave by regularly working more than their formal contracted hours. This means they can take extra time off when it suits them and the firm – in school holidays, for example.

“I was fired up by the Reconnect experience and ready to focus on my career, but I also knew I wanted to be able to spend more than just weekends with my family. As my role is largely transactional, a traditional part time arrangement wasn’t going to work. So EY suggested I consider an annualised contract – and it’s the perfect solution, both for the business and for me.”

Flexibility that works both ways

This creative approach to job design is working well for Kemi and her team. “Flexibility needs to work for both sides if it’s going to be sustainable,” says Kemi. “I’m happy to flex to the needs of the business and the firm’s flexibility works for me, particularly during school holidays.”

And Minaxi agrees that flexibility works best when it works both ways. As she explains: “I was employed after the programme on a nine day fortnight, but I’m able to be flexible about it; one of my current clients also works part time so I have switched my day off to align with them for the duration of this project.”

The difference a supportive culture makes

Kemi and Minaxi also agree that the support networks provided by the Reconnect programme are an important factor in its success. As Kemi says:

“The culture of the firm is so positive about encouraging greater diversity and my team were the same; they really wanted to make it work and were happy to accommodate my need for flexibility.

And I know that the job doesn’t end here. I made it clear at the start that I wanted to progress and I’ve been inspired and mentored by some female role models at senior level; I also know I’m setting a great example for my two daughters in turn. Having had a career break, I don’t take work for granted – I’m determined to do well and progress as much as I can.”

A worthwhile investment for everyone involved

From EY’s point of view, this attitude underlines the value of their investment in the programme. As Jane Goldsmith, Talent Partner for the firm’s Financial Services business area, explains: “The feedback from our pilot programme has been really positive, both from participants and the business. It’s helped us tap into a talent pool of highly experienced individuals.”

By taking a flexible approach, EY has created a route back into the workplace for driven, ambitious people via EY Reconnect.

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