A 10-year break taken by HR professional Shilpi Singh did not pose a hurdle in rekindling her career aspirations. Six months ago, Shilpi joined Airtel through the company’s return-to-work programme ‘Step-In’.
Several companies now have second-career programmes — a window of opportunity for women who may have left their careers due to various reasons, such as childcare. Still, most organisations do not encourage candidates with a break that’s longer than a couple of years. There’s usually a cap on the quantum of break taken, based on the belief that people’s skills would become outdated. But that’s not the case with Airtel’s Step-In.
Shilpi, who pursued her interests and became a certified instructor for Zumba and Yoga, among many other accomplishments, is now part of the HR team at Airtel’s Bengaluru office where she drives talent acquisition across HR and other verticals. Airtel said Shilpi’s diverse experience brings a refreshing perspective to the company and has identified her easy connect with candidates as being critical to her role.
Airtel chief people officer Amrita Padda said, “Breaks enrich us in many ways. People may have taken a break from an active corporate career, but they gain experience during this phase by doing something meaningful elsewhere. Being out of the corporate world doesn’t mean that you’re not active. In fact, the way Shilpi has come back into the team, the insights she’s bringing to us and the conversations that she’s having internally & externally — it is really impressive. ”
Padda said Airtel’s goal is clear. “We want to stay true to our vision of being an inclusive workplace where we can bring in a lot of diverse employees. The Step-In programme is about bringing back women who have taken a career break for various reasons buthave the right experience and skills to return to work. ”
The ‘Renew’ programme at Larsen & Toubro (L&T) only considers qualifications of a returnee woman candidate and not the length of her career gap. Executive VP & head (corporate HR) C Jayakumar said, “We recently hired a woman employee who was on a career break that extended to around 10 years. We hired her because she’s a qualified MBA and is suitable for the post. All that we ensure is that we sensitise the candidates coming back to work after a long break that they are being hired for their past experience and their current po-tential for the job requirement. ” In the last one year, approximately 2,000 candidates applied through Renew.
Marico, which recently launched ‘Phoenix’, a gender neutral second-career programme, also does not have a cap on the break a candidate took. Marico’s CHRO Amit Prakash said, “We believe grey cells matter more than grey hair. We are always open to hiring talent who believe in making a difference and leaving an impact. We are offering an opportunity to professionals who have taken a minimum 1-year break from the workforce to re-enter on a project or on a lateral hiring basis. The programme respects individuality and welcomes candidates that may have taken longer breaks. The idea is to not limit ourselves with the number of years of break, but create a more thought-diverse workplace driven by the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that Marico is known for. Therefore, the qualifications, capabilities and expertise of the candidate will matter and not the years of break. ”
As second-career policies get further fine-tuned to make them more progressive, Marico decided to make Phoenix a gender-neutral programme given the paradigm shift in employee expectations.