Every day businesses like yours lose valued and talented staff, who have recently returned from maternity leave. We see this time and again regardless of industry, country or culture.
Growing numbers of parents are opting out of employment to start their own business or to join the gig economy as freelancers. They understandably want to balance a high commitment career with being a present parent.
In some sectors, as many as half of those going on maternity leave with their second child do not make a long-term return (Halryngo and Lyng, 2009). This is creating a (mostly female) talent drain of 30-45 year old professionals who are at their peak in terms of training, experience and value to the organisation (Cahusac and Kanji 2014.)
Losing these typically senior staff costs business dear. These employees have decades of valuable experience. They are expensive to replace. And it drains women from senior leadership roles, compounding an already biased working world. What a waste to allow this trend to continue.
Maternity and returner coaching is a simple and effective way to retain this top talent, by helping returners make a positive transition back to work.
In nearly ten years of doing this type of coaching, White & Lime Ltd have seen many successes and had plenty of experience to learn from too. As more and more businesses turn to maternity and returner coaching as one part of their response to the gender and inclusion agenda, clients are increasingly asking us what we have learned from doing this work so far. Here are our top three tips:
Research tells us that nine to twelve months after returning to work is a critical time for women. In our experience, this is often the time where returners are secretly questioning “can I continue to do this?” This is precisely when support from an independent coach can make the difference between talented parents staying or going. All too often, clients have used up their limited coaching allocation well before this crucial time and they can end up reaching the end of their tether at exactly the moment the returner coaching allocation has run out. If we are serious about supporting parents to make a long term return to the workplace, longer term support is required to cover this critical period.
Be thoughtful about who does the coaching. Counter to our early assumptions, returner coaching does not have to be done by women and/or parents. It’s easy to assume that lived experience of maternity return is a critical element of the coach’s offer. Whilst the majority of our current maternity and returner coaches are parents, we’ve been surprised to witness that trusted coaches without lived experience of a return from leave still get outstanding results. So, if being a parent isn’t an essential ingredient, what are the critical things a returner coach must have?
Coaching for returners is only one part of the picture if you’re serious about retaining talented parents. Other things to give careful thought to that will have a positive impact on the organisation’s inclusive culture include:
If you would like to discuss how targeted development programmes for working parents and/ or leadership development programmes can support your organisation to become more inclusive, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Much gratitude to Siobhan Swindells for her invaluable contribution to the original research for this article.
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