"A year ago I wondered if I was ever going to get another job," Linda Piper told HR Dive. "I got really lucky."
Piper took a seven-year hiatus from the workforce and now works for Johnson & Johnson in customer connectivity operations management. She is a "Re-Igniter," which means she arrived through the company's STEM, manufacturing and design returnship program.
Creating something 'special'
Johnson & Johnson launched the Re-Ignite program in 2017, realizing that for those who opt out of the workforce to raise children or serve in the miliary, for example, rejoining was a challenge. For mothers in STEM careers, 43% leave to raise their first child; only 23% of fathers do.
It began with a pilot of three candidates. When all three were eventually hired, "we realized this was pretty special," Liz Markus, the program's director told HR Dive. "It championed our progressive workplace policies," she said, and it furthers a company mission to see value in all walks of life.
In just a few short years, Re-Ignite has achieved a global reach. The program has expanded to 11 locations in four countries, including Ireland, Mexico and Puerto Rico. By the end of 2019, 40 returnees will be in the program or hired. The program boasts a 100% returnee-to-employee conversion rate.
Notably, it's not just for former Johnson & Johnson employees returning to the fold. While roughly 10% fit that definition, the other 90% come from elsewhere, Markus said. "Anyone who’s had a career break is welcome to apply." The skill areas vary as well. "Some returners are in the R&D space," said Markus; "others are in IT, engineers, process technicians and more."
And rather than bring returners into a separate training program, Re-Ignite is an immersive program. "We’re focused on returners demonstrating success through projects," said Markus. "We don’t want them to be taken out of the role to do training." They’re immersed and part of the team from day one, she added, and they have access to "buddies" for extra assistance.
Re-Ignite may still be in its infancy, but Markus said it has an army of passionate and dedicated employees: "As we see it growing and awareness is spreading, hiring managers are coming to me to participate. It’s a great fit for how we do business."
It appears to be a great fit for employees, too. "It’s about being agile and doing what’s right for the hiring manager and the returner," Markus continued. "We’re getting great hires for [Johnson & Johnson] and helping people get back to work."
Piper agreed that both parties seem to be deriving significant benefit. The company, she said, "has given me an opportunity to take the hardship I was experiencing and turn it into success for myself and others."